Penn State

State Sen. John Yudichak renews quest for reform of Penn State trustees

The board of trustees will gather at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel on Thursday for committee meetings for the first time in 2015.

The agenda includes things like looking at guidelines to select faculty, student and at-large trustees under board governance reform passed in November and discussing procedures for calling special meetings, a topic that comes up after the nine alumni-elected trustees attempted to call a special meeting in December but had no quorum because all but one of the non-alumni-elected representatives opted not to attend.

But if Sen. John Yudichak, D- Luzerne, has his way, more reform will be coming.

The board overruled requests from Yudichak, state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, and Gov.-elect Tom Wolf when voting in November.

After months of considering proposals to change the structure and coming to an “A+” plan that involved adding faculty, student and at-large trustees while eliminating votes for the state secretaries of Education, Agriculture and Conservation and Natural Resources. Wolf, who as governor also appoints six trustees, asked that they wait until after his inauguration to give him time to assess the situation.

The board declined, with only the alumni-elected trustees supporting the request. The board did decide to wait on suspension of voting rights for the three Cabinet secretaries.

Yudichak, who attended the December special meeting by phone and denounced the board members who did not attend, said he is not giving up on his efforts to see the General Assembly take on reform.

“We are actively working with Sen. Corman and some of the leaders of the other universities,” he said.

Pennsylvania has a large number of colleges, universities and other post-secondary schools, including private, religious and the 14 schools in the State System of Higher Education, but Penn State is in a small club of just four state-related facilities that are in a kind of limbo. Penn State is affiliated with the state, but like Temple, Pitt and Lincoln, still separate.

Yudichak says that, in conversations with those other schools, they are “clarifying the definition of a state-related university.”

“Penn State uniformly, under the leadership of Chairman (Keith) Masser, has drifted,” he said.

Yudichak said he expects to introduce the new legislation in January or February.

Corman’s office said he has not yet seen a draft, but press secretary Jennifer Kocher said she sees “no reason to believe” that Corman would not show bipartisan support for the bill, having co-sponsored similar legislation with Yudichak last year.

Previously, the board and legislators butted heads, with the board resisting what was seen as Harrisburg’s overreach into the university’s affairs.

“Clearly, this has become personal. These reforms will not come from this majority,” Yudichak said. “The various constituencies need to be heard.”

Alumni-elected trustee Anthony Lubrano supports the legislator’s efforts.

“I look forward to Sen. Yudichak’s input. He is an engaged member of the legislature. He makes us all Penn State proud,” Lubrano said.