As Penn State seniors are days away from turning their tassels, the members of the board of trustees are poised to bring the university into a new chapter of its life, too.
The trustees will convene Thursday and Friday for a series of meetings where they will continue a long-running discussion about governance reforms that have gotten traction in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The public will also learn which three of the 39 candidates won election to the board, whether it was two incumbents or any of the challengers who have been vocal about their disdain for the board.
First up is the governance and long-range planning committee, whose members meet at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in Room 211 of The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel. A Penn State spokesman said the members will take up the discussion that started in January over reforms and recommendations brought to them by various people and agencies outside the university.
What exactly is on tap for Thursday’s continuation of the discussion is not known. The agendas are confidential pieces of paper up until the committee meetings actually start.
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The committee members, such as the James Broadhurst, Joel Myers and John Surma, already have signaled their support for taking away the president’s and governor’s voting powers. That recommendation was one from the former auditor general, Jack Wagner.
The governance committee also is recommending adopting changes to the board’s standing orders to allow the removal of a trustee who breaches his or her fiduciary duty or violates the expectations of membership. The board is proposing to add language that says a trustee should not “publicly criticize or attempt to subvert” a decision the board has made.
Those two, however, were not among the Wagner recommendations, and freshman trustee Anthony Lubrano, a vocal critic of some of his fellow trustees, thinks they are aimed at him.
Voting in the trustee race will end Thursday morning, and the university will announce the winners Friday toward the end of the meeting.
The race, which has seen almost 33,000 alumni cast a ballot, features two candidates going up against a field of 37 alumni, many of whom are leveraging their campaigns on criticizing the board’s decision-making in the fallout of the Sandusky scandal.
The incumbents, local orthopedic surgeon Paul Suhey and Chester County lawyer Stephanie Deviney, have been the targets of vitriolic attacks in newspapers ads, billboards and Internet chatter.
An anti-Deviney Facebook page, which has the word “rejected” over her photo, has more than 660 likes and lyrical postings, such as “Tick tock, tick tock. Time’s almost up on Stephanie’s clock.” Suhey saw himself get into a war of words with the family of Joe Paterno, who called out the former football captain for voting to oust the former head coach in November 2011.
If Deviney loses, the board will have to elect a new vice chairman.
The challengers have platforms that include pledges for increased board transparency and improving the university’s reputation in a post-Sandusky world, and they would have to take their fight to the committee levels, where ideas can be pitched to bring before the board.
Thursday’s slate of meetings also include discussions for other matters, such as a proposal to proceed with separate accreditation of the Carlisle and University Park campuses of the Dickinson School of Law, which will be during the academic affairs and student life committee, and a proposal to award contracts for the Hetzel Union Building renovation project.