Just more than a month into the Donald Trump presidency, Penn State officials are wondering what it means for them.
University general counsel Stephen Dunham laid out some possible areas of impact for the board of trustees committee on legal and compliance Thursday.
“We are looking ahead to what we will do, what we are required to do, where compliance dollars will change, we want to be prepared for that. To a large extent, we know what the general categories are. We can have a thoughtful process about what to do about that,” he said.
The impact in question comes as the new president signs a series of executive orders and makes appointments to cabinet and court that are viewed as fulfilling much applauded campaign promises by some and dangerous rollbacks by others.
That makes the first impact no surprise: protests.
“That’s not a regulation being passed by Congress, but its everyone’s prediction,” said Dunham, who pointed to “more challenges for the university” and how it manages those protests.
“President (Eric) Barron is way ahead of this. We started doing this over a year ago, had various processes to address it,” Dunham said.
Penn State, like other schools, did see a contentious election season that may have prepared it for additional rallies or protests.
“We think this will be a growing area. There will be disruptions,” Dunham said. “I’m not trying to present it as negative, but there will be more vocal speech on our campuses, and we need to be ready for it.”
Then there is the international issue. Penn State has a large number of international students. The confusion around the future of foreign nationals’ ability to come to the United States with the executive orders on immigration and the promises to deport illegals and build a wall along the Mexican border are question marks.
“Some of these we are watching very, very carefully,” Barron said. “What is going to happen to our international enrollment? We are well ahead of accepting international students, but we are very early in the game. We have 72 paid accepts and 2,500 offers out. It could change dramatically. It’s an interesting time.”
Other balls in the air include how the courts will interpret laws with a new Supreme Court justice on the horizon, how guidance and directions that aren’t laws will be handled (or rescinded), the possibility of new pushes for public-private partnerships, the future of defense funding and the lifeblood of every university — financial aid.