The Penn State board of trustees is set to vote to possibly change its size and makeup, but in the wake of Gov. Tom Corbett’s defeat in last week’s election and shifts in legislative leadership this week, two state officials are asking that the vote be delayed.
Sen. Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, and Sen. John Yudichak, D-Luzerne, have sent a joint letter to the board requesting the postponement “until further discussions are held with the members of the General Assembly and the new executive administration.”
Yudichak also confirmed to the Centre Daily Times that Gov.-elect Tom Wolf also would like the board to refrain from any action for the time being.
“I know that the governor-elect has reached out to President Barron about his displeasure” with the current reform proposals. Yudichak said Wolf also has reached out to board Chairman Keith Masser and governance and long-range planning committee leader Keith Eckel.
The proposal was a contentious compromise that still does not have full board support after months of negotiation. Now there is conflict at the state level.
The proposal includes striking votes from the governor and three Cabinet secretaries and adding others, such as the past alumni association president, three at-large trustees elected by the board, a student and a faculty member, for a total of 33.
Yudichak stressed the need for a good working relationship between the trustees and state government.
“This is not personal. It’s not political. This is bipartisan,” he said.
It’s also financial. Penn State gets funding from the state every year, and looking at that budget request is going to be one of the first things Wolf does in office, Yudichak said, calling a push on the governance issue over Wolf’s objections “a bad message to send to the new governor.”
Alumni trustee Anthony Lubrano wants to see how this request is handled by the board.
“That’s going to tell me more about the environment,” he said.
Thursday’s action was in Room 211 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel. It had a full house Thursday for the governance and long-range planning committee meeting.
After a week of email revelations regarding ongoing legal battles involving the NCAA, legislators and post-Sandusky fallout, it seemed like the place where something had to happen.
But it didn’t.
Lubrano, a former party to one of the lawsuits, sat at one end of the table, university President Eric Barron in the middle. Conversation, however, centered on fairly mundane topics of risk assessment and strategic goals.
Afterward, however, Barron and Lubrano answered questions about the recent, and possibly future, headlines.
Barron was predictably circumspect in talking about the pending litigation and recent revelations, including the alleged “bluff” by the NCAA to get Penn State to accept sanctions that included $60 million in fines, reduced scholarships, a four-year bowl ban and removal of 112 football victories.
He declined to tell reporters what his recommendations to board members would be, saying it would be unfair to reveal that to anyone before he told them. That is expected to take place in an executive session Friday morning before the public board meeting in the afternoon.
He did say that he thinks “there is wisdom” for him to explain to the board his position on the situations, but not necessarily to jump into action.
“There is nothing to rush into,” he said.
That, he has said before, includes taking the suggestion of Lubrano and other alumni-elected trustees who would like to see the university go from being a defendant in cases like Corman’s Commonwealth Court suit to becoming a plaintiff.
“Everyone knows our position in the lawsuits was unwilling,” he said.
Lubrano was more forthcoming, even admitting that the proposal he circulated to trustees to change sides in the lawsuit might not be the most important thing in front of trustees.
“I am more interested in the governance reform,” he said.