Student applications are being accepted through Nov. 12 for a voting seat on Penn State University's 32-member Board of Trustees, replacing outgoing student trustee Galen Foulke.
Foulke acquired the position, which has existed since 1971, in 2005, the summer between his two terms as president of the former Undergraduate Student Government.
During his tenure, he was criticized for the appearance of having conflicting interests as a representative of students and an administrative board member.
Foulke, who ends his three-year term July 1, 2008, will appoint an eight-student committee representing "a broad cross-section of the university" to review applications and pinpoint top candidates.
"I invite these people to the committee," he said. "I identify what people I think should be on it and invite them."
This "invitation only" process has raised questions among members of Safeguard Old State (SOS), a student advocacy group, who believe the process should be more democratic.
"I think, ideally, it would be a better process if it was up for popular vote since the position affects everyone," said Gavin Keirans, SOS executive director, adding that SOS members are considering applying. "At least it's open applications. It's a better process than in the past when it has gone right to the governor."
This committee will also feature two non-voting advisers -- Paula Ammerman, director of the Office of the Board of Trustees, and a representative from Student Affairs, who has yet to accept the invitation.
The top applicants will earn an interview in Harrisburg with Gov. Ed Rendell or his delegate, secretary of education Gerald Zahorchak. The nomination then requires Senate confirmation.
Though Foulke's three-year term will not end until July, Senate confirmation is not always a speedy process, Ammerman said.
"Gubernatorial appointees can continue to serve, even though their term will expire, until their replacements have been confirmed by the Senate," she said.
Though there's no rule prohibiting his re-nomination, Foulke, currently enrolled in the College of Medicine in Hershey, said he's ready to pass the torch.
"I'm in medical school now, so I have some pretty serious time constraints. It's time for somebody else to get a chance," he said. "It's a big responsibility. Anytime an issue came up, they were always asking me for a student perspective."
Ammerman said the Office of the Board of Trustees has yet to receive any applications. Last time the position was up for grabs there were 12 applicants, he added.
Questions on the document require students to describe the two most important issues facing the university and ask, "What are the two most important qualities a trustee should possess?"
For Foulke, the answer is simple.
"I think really important qualities is a broad understanding of how the whole university works and a passion that the Penn State student voice is heard at these meetings," he said.
However, he emphasized that the time-consuming position requires students to put forth effort beyond the bimonthly meeting attendance.
"You need to keep on top of what's going on in the university and understand how to speak on behalf of everyone that goes to Penn State," he said, mentioning the need to adequately represent the commonwealth campuses.
Ammerman urged students to not take the position's description lightly.
"They are entrusted with the future of the university," she said. "That's a pretty awesome responsibility. They have an equal voice and an equal vote."