Board of Trustees

Ryan Bagwell: Penn State Board of Trustees candidate

Biographical information

Middleton, Wis.

Age: 35

Education: B.A. journalism, B.S. music, 2002; certificate in web development, Boston University, 2010

Work: web developer; founder, Penn State Sunshine Fund

Experience and activities: Founder, Penn State Sunshine Fund; board member, Madison, Wis., chapter of Penn State Alumni Association; lifetime member of the Penn State Alumni Association; past member of Annapolis, Md., chapter of Penn State Alumni Association; Nittany Lion Club member

Please describe your motivations for running for the Board of Trustees.

More than two years after the Sandusky scandal, the Penn State family remains sharply divided. The board’s unwillingness to address alumni concerns is directly responsible for that division. One of the clearest paths to placating angry Penn Staters is to release all records of Louis Freeh’s investigation, so we can decide for ourselves is his final report has merit. As the founder of the Penn State Sunshine Fund, I’ve succeeded in making the university more transparent. If elected, the release of Freeh records will be my top priority.

I also want to be a voice for alumni who cannot afford Penn State’s record tuition. It’s a problem that the board and the administration have so far been unwilling to address head on. It is time we create a task force of trustees, administrators and alumni to aggressively make the university more affordable. I will offer to lead that process.

What are the most important challenges ahead for Penn State, and if elected, how would you address them?

The most pressing challenge facing the board of trustees is to reunite a alumni community that remains divided over Penn State’s handling of the Sandusky scandal. But with distrust of Penn State’s leaders is as low as it has ever been, the only way to fully heal is to provide a full account of what transpired after November 2011.

That’s why I support the immediate release of all records related to the Freeh investigation. Instead of relying on unsupported conclusions, alumni should be allowed to decide for themselves whether he got it right or unfairly painted a very proud alumni community as enablers of child abuse.

But we cannot focus solely on the past. Other challenges beg for our attention, including record tuition that is too expensive for even the most committed Penn Staters. We should immediately rethink the way we set the price of a Penn State degree by providing discounts for alumni and need-based tuition credits. As a trustee, I would push to expand the university’s private loan program and lower its 6 percent interest rate. I would also begin working toward a long-term goal of providing a free education for students whose families earn less than $60,000 a year.

If elected, what position would you support on the topic of Penn State board of trustees reform?

Only 16 percent of alumni trust the board of trustees, and only 28 percent trust the administration. Restoring confidence is critical to moving the university beyond the Sandusky scandal. I support immediately tightening conflict of interest reporting rules to apply to matters involving trustees’ grandchildren, siblings and their families. We should also require all trustees and senior administrator to submit annual financial disclosure forms that document their sources of income. Finally, we must must remove board rules that prohibit members from conducting their own due diligence and asking tough questions that their positions of responsibility demand.

If elected, what position would you support about Joe Paterno?

How Penn State chooses to recognize Joe Paterno’s legacy is a barrier to moving forward. While I support a number of ideas, including naming Beaver Stadium in his honor, such an important decision shouldn’t be made by a handful of administrators and trustees behind closed doors. A group that represents the broader alumni community should be tasked with deciding the most appropriate tribute for Joe’s years of service to Penn State.

More info: www.bagwellforpennstate.com, Twitter: @bagwell4trustee

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