Board of Trustees

Robert J. Bowsher: Penn State Board of Trustees candidate

Biographical information

San Diego

Age: 49

B.S. accounting, 1986

Work: writer and accountant, Avitus Inc., San Diego

Experiences and activities: lifetime member, Penn State Alumni Association

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

Fellow Penn Staters, we’re not the character Chip in the movie Animal House, eager to assume the position and yell, “Thank you, sir. May I have another?!” WE ARE the Penn State community and, as incumbent trustees and the NCAA learned, we’re a force to be reckoned with now and forever.

We will not stand idly by while the Freeh Report’s accusations desecrate Penn State’s good name, while legendary coaches are denied due process, while faculty and staff fear for their jobs, while conflicts of interest abound, and certainly not while tuition hikes bury students and parents under mountains of debt. No Thank You, SirWe’re Not Taking Another!

Elect me and I will do to the board of trustees what I did to my own life: make it open and transparent. By coming out of the closet and leading an openly gay life for over 15 years, I’m uniquely qualified to join the alumni trustees and their allies in reforming this board into a model of open governance.

I’m also qualified to rein in wasteful spending. Instead of paying millions for out-of-state consultants and public relations firms, the trustees need to invest those funds in programs that reduce tuitions and in programs that directly benefit our community.

Fellow Penn Staters, let’s join together to do what Coach Joe Paterno did for over 60 years. Let’s make Penn State a better place.

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

Two of Penn State’s biggest financial wells--state appropriations and tuition dollars —are drying up fast. I would address these fiscal challenges by maximizing alternative revenue sources like the Hershey Medical Center, by reining in wasteful spending and by ensuring construction projects stay within budget.

To make Penn State a better place, we must make Penn State a better workplace. The recent high-profile firings of legendary coaches Joe Paterno and Emmanuil Kaidanov sent the wrong message to Penn State’s talented faculty and staff. If elected, I would help usher in a more community-oriented work environment like the one Penn State had in the 1960s. I would also encourage Dr. Barron and the other executive leaders to boost morale and make us believe again that hard work pays off on the Penn State campuses.

To promote greater openness and transparency, I would ensure the university complies with Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law. I would also comply, and encourage the other trustees to comply as well, with the commonwealth’s Public Official and Employee Ethics Act.

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

First and foremost, the board of trustees needs to open up communication channels with faculty, alumni, staff, and students. The events of 2011 and 2012 exposed why the board can no longer rely solely on the university president for information.

I support any reduction in the size of the board, including the Sen. Jake Corman/Sen. John Yudichak bill that would result in a 23-member group. The University of Illinois operates successfully with nine trustees. Why do we need 30?

I also advocate the reforms proposed by former Auditor General Jack Wagner, in particular the disclosure of per-trustee expenses. board of trustees meetings cost over $30,000 each these days. Now that the board meets six times a year, these costs need to be reduced.

In addition, trustees should be allowed to inform the public when they disagree with a decision reached by the board. Supreme Court justices can communicate dissenting opinions. Why can’t board of trustees members do the same? Standing Order IX, the set of rules that forbids trustees from communicating dissenting opinions, no longer serves the university’s best interests. It must be rewritten.

Finally, we must loosen the stranglehold the Business & Industry trustees have on the committee assignment process. Five of the six Business & Industry trustees, but only two of the nine alumni trustees, were members of the Presidential Search Committee. The committee assignment process needs to be reformed so that all trustees, not just the Business & Industry ones, have the opportunity to serve on influential committees.

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

For over 60 years, our great university reaped the harvest Coach Joe Paterno sowed with his hard work, dedication, ingenuity, and his most precious resource: his time. We are forever indebted to Coach Paterno for all he did to make Penn State a better place. I join all of you who hope to see games played someday soon on Paterno Field at Beaver Stadium.

In addition, to honor Coach Paterno’s decades of service and to honor the selfless choice a group of his players made, I propose a “Plaza of Honor” be built where his statue and the Players’ Wall once stood. A new statue of Coach Paterno, based on a design approved by the Paterno family, would be the plaza’s centerpiece. Etched on the wall surrounding this statue would be the names of all the players who chose to stay at Penn State after the NCAA imposed its unprecedented sanctions. Coach Bill O’Brien’s name could also be included on this wall to recognize his contributions.

If elected, I would encourage more November 2011 trustees to do what Al Clemens did: apologize for the unanimous decision to fire our legendary coach over the telephone. Coach Paterno deserved a much better ending to his illustrious career than the abrupt dismissal that decision thrust upon him and his family.

Is there anything else you want voters to know about you and your candidacy?

Some people are big talkers. I’m a big 6-foot-6 listener. Instead of one big mouth, I have two big ears I lend to people all the time. Elect me and I’ll make sure those ears are always available to you and anyone else who wants to join our efforts.

I pledge to do as a trustee what I’ve done throughout my adulthood: spend money wisely. I’ve been an authorized check signer for three entities, including my current employer, because people trust me with their money.

I stand tall, and I stand ready to serve you and Penn State.

More info: rbowsher@gmail.com, http://bowsher4psu.com, www.facebook.com/Bowsher4psu, Twitter: @Bowsher4psu, www.linkedin.com/in/bowsher4psu

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