Board of Trustees

PSU governance committee endorses board reform plan

The committee has spoken, but it was not unanimous.

The committee on governance and long-range planning will advise the Penn State board of trustees to adopt a new plan for board restructuring suggested by President Keith Masser on Thursday.

The committee started its meeting with proposals A, B, C, D and E, but Masser opened the door to one more option — a proposal he called A+.

And, with only one opposition vote — from trustee Anthony Lubrano — that’s the proposal that was chosen.

The recommendation calls for 33 voting members: six gubernatorial appointments, six business and industry members, six agriculture representatives, nine elected alumni, one alumni association representative, one student, one faculty member and three at-large positions elected by the board.

The governor, Penn State’s president and three Cabinet secretaries would be nonvoting members.

Masser called the proposal a compromise and had suggested that it be recommended to the board only if it had unanimous support from the committee.

“I just couldn’t in principle vote for it,” said Anthony Lubrano, an alumni-elected trustee. He said he has received input from many alumni opposed to the alumni association seat.

Some of the changes are raising concerns from different quarters for different reasons.

State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Luzerne, issued a statement decrying the recommendation as possibly illegal.

“The action today by the Penn State board of trustees’ committee on governance and long-range planning clearly shows the divisions within the panel about the best step moving forward,” he said, suggesting the board review the proposal carefully before a planned November vote.

“Today, however, I am concerned that this committee violated state law by taking this action. The public members of the board of trustees and the voting privileges they have are decided by statute, not by a committee of non-lawmakers.”

Yudichak has actively promoted Senate Bill 1240, which would cut the number of voting members on the board of trustees from the current 30 to 23.

Others questioned the action because of the suddenness of the new proposal and a lack of public input.

Jeff Goldsmith, a former trustee candidate, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the process, claiming the public had been denied comment at the past two meetings. Comment was not opened Thursday until after the vote had been taken.

“This is not the way to usher in transparency,” he said.

Deborah Beidel, a member of the alumni council, is not satisfied that the number of alumni positions won’t be cut back. Other provisions would remove requirements for a percentage of appointed members to come from alumni ranks. She also dislikes the at-large positions, which will increase board size but could dilute the influence of the elected representatives.

“One of the reasons we have the largest and most engaged alumni association is because ... our alumni feel they are stakeholders,” she said.

Trustee Barbara Doran had issues with some aspects of the proposal, not the least of which being the last-minute presentation.

“I appreciate the compromise,” she said, but expressed concern over the lack of review before voting.

Some changes were made as the board discussed the proposal, after trustee Richard Dandrea withdrew his previous motion for a different plan, claiming there was additional discussion by committee members over a brief break in the three-hour session.

“Do I like this better than the last proposal? No. But I do think it shows compromise,” said Dandrea, who also said he wants to see the process move forward without embroiling the university in another lawsuit.

Some other key changes included tweaks to the process for selection of business and industry representatives, and clarification of the manner in which the at-large members would be chosen by the board.

Governance Committee Chairman Keith Eckel said he was disappointed that the committee could not return a unanimous vote.

“But I am an optimist,” he said. “I am hoping by November it can be unanimous with the board.”