A move to change the way former trustees participate with the Penn State board has raised questions.
The governance and long-range planning committee has debated the merits of emeritus trustee positions — and how deeply involved those one-time members of the ruling body should be — for months.
The proposed change defines emeritus status not as something to be conveyed on any former trustee, but on those who served at least six years “with distinction,” and to begin a new six-year emeritus term of active counsel to the board immediately after retiring or resigning, upon recommendation. The former chairman would automatically have emeritus status.
The sticking point for Jeff Goldsmith, of Penn State Board Watch, was how much an emeritus trustee might be involved or excluded. He aired his concerns during the public comment session of Friday’s board of trustees meeting.
“What is interesting is that with the new proposal, certain trustees emeritus can be treated differently than others at the discretion of the chair,” he said.
During discussions in committee Thursday, committee Chairman Keith Eckel did note when asked by trustee Anthony Lubrano that under the new terms, an emeritus trustee could be excluded from participating in certain executive sessions dealing with sensitive material unless that person’s experience or expertise warranted inclusion.
“The effect is to allow power groups to retain power beyond their terms as trustees,” Goldsmith said.
Past discussions, however, have shown much debate on whether an emeritus level of participation was necessary, and support for keeping a pool of experience to draw upon.
Penn State’s website shows 25 emeritus trustees on the board.