Penn State

Dissidents dominate Penn State alumni council vote

Weeks of online voting wrapped up over the weekend for the Penn State Alumni Association’s alumni council election.

The results were released Monday, and some familiar names were among the list of winners.

In a rare contentious election for the seats, the alumni association was taken to court twice and added two candidates to the previously announced list of 30 vying for the 10 available slots. In a process in which employees could only identify one person ever being denied a spot in 19 years, that record was shattered as four university trustees and at least three others were rejected in 2015.

That resulted in the formation of a new group, PSAA for All, which endorsed a list of candidates interested in getting “elected representation to have governance authority again.”

That list included Bill Cluck, Mike Kirschner, Toni Knoll, Brad Mitchell, Elizabeth Morgan, Jim Smith, Laurie Stanell, Gary Werkheiser, Susan Wilson and David Paterno, whose brother Jay was one of those kept off the ballot.

Monday’s list of winners was almost exactly the same.

Paterno got the most votes, with 5,135. Morgan and Smith, the two last-minute additions after Smith filed a lawsuit, came in second and ninth, respectively. Kirschner, Knoll, Mitchell, Stanell, Werkheiser and Wilson also made the cut.

Of the PSAA for All candidates, only Cluck was out of the running, but barely. He came in 11th.

The only other candidate to break into the winners’ circle was incumbent Karen Keller, a former member of the association’s executive board.

“We are pleased with the election results and look forward to working hard to serve our Alumni Association members,” Paterno said.

Alumni-elected trustee Anthony Lubrano was among those who sued to get on the ballot but was denied due to a bylaw change in April, including a stipulation that no trustees can hold a council seat. He was the lead winner in the trustee election to retain his seat in 2015.

“Democracy in process. Imagine that. It works,” he said. “It just proves that the alumni are capable of free thought after all.”

Smith came to an agreement with the alumni association on his suit, but did not discount the possibility that he would pursue additional legal action. That was another change to the bylaws, making someone who sues the organization or the university is unable to hold a seat.

“We look forward to working with the incoming president of the alumni association and the other alumni council members to strengthen and grow the association through better accountability to and representation of the Penn State alumni that form the base of the organization,” he said.

Deborah Beidel was already a member of the council but has been vocal in opposing the new rules.

“It is a repudiation of the power grab and the new bylaws,” she said of the election results.

Alumni association Executive Director Roger Williams issued the following statement Monday afternoon:

“We congratulate and welcome our new council members. We look forward to introducing them to the many ways in which we serve our mission — encouraging the engagement and support of alumni in strengthening our great university.”

According to the alumni association, 136,059 members were eligible to vote. Of those, 7,587 actually participated. That meant 5.58 percent, up from 5.31 percent in 2014.

The election was conducted by Votenet Solutions Inc., of Washington, D.C.

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