The Penn State alumni community is in the middle of nominations for three trustee seats, but it is another election that is starting some growling in the Nittany Lion community.
The election is for 10 seats on the Penn State Alumni Association’s alumni council. The body is huge, with 86 members. The slate of 2015 candidates announced by the alumni association is also large, numbering 30 graduates of the university, covering a span from the Class of 1959 to the Class of 2001.
Association Executive Director Roger Williams says it is the “largest candidate field in our history” and is anticipating an “exciting” election.
The problem? The dozen candidates who aren’t on that slate.
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According to council member Deborah Beidel, that is how many candidates went through the nomination process but weren’t included on the final list. It included four names that stood out.
Alumni-elected trustees Anthony Lubrano, Bill Oldsey, Alice Pope and Ted Brown all sought a seat at the alumni council table but were denied.
“I got the same form letter for rejection that everyone else did,” Brown said. He says he followed the steps for self-nomination, and the bylaws say nothing about barring trustees from serving on the board. But he has subsequently been told that it is seen as a conflict of interest.
That surprises him. After all, the alumni association will soon have a seat on the board of trustees after last year’s governance reform vote. Brown calls that hypocrisy.
“I think it’s retaliation,” he said.
That is because of the other eight people who were excluded. One was Jay Paterno, former assistant football coach and son of the late Joe Paterno, the longtime coach whose name is on a library in the middle of campus.
Of the other seven, Beidel said, most have been involved with Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, the watchdog group that has become a powerhouse organization in the years since the arrest of retired coach Jerry Sandusky on child sex abuse charges and the subsequent dismissal of Paterno and three other university administrators.
“The Alumni Council Nominating Committee is within its prerogatives to use and apply criteria when weighing the relative qualifications of individual nominees and in otherwise making determinations about who may serve by virtue of their official roles within the university as well as their status as a litigant against the Alumni Association or the University,” the association said in a statement put out Monday.
Paterno is a party to two lawsuits in which Penn State is a defendant.
Beidel does not have a problem with deciding to change the bylaws, which she says only require a candidate to be an alumnus. She just wants the changes to happen openly. The new list of criteria was not made known to the entire alumni council, much less the whole association, she said.
She is also bothered by the large number of disqualifications in just one year. Beidel said there have only been a few such disqualifications in the past.
“I’m very concerned,” said Brown, who thinks the move “disenfranchises three-quarters of the alumni.”
“The aims of both organizations should not be in conflict,” he said.
That’s an area where Williams agrees.
“Our mission is essentially to strengthen and support Penn State by engaging our most valued resource — our alumni,” he said.
Voting in the election takes place from May 12-31.