Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner wants Penn State to remove the university president’s seat on the Board of Trustees and to keep the president out of committee work — with a goal of avoiding too great a concentration of power.
The auditor general is also working on a report of his own on recommendations for improving university governance, which he expects to complete within 60 days, according to a letter sent to Gov. Tom Corbett, state legislators, trustees and several Penn State administrators.
Wagner was the latest outside voice to weigh in with recommendations for Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case through the letter and a press conference Thursday morning in Harrisburg.
“Because this abuse occurred at a public university supported by Pennsylvania taxpayers, a comprehensive analysis of governance issues must occur.” Wagner wrote in his letter.
The auditor general’s other recommendations include: making the governor an ex-officio non-voting member of the board, establishing a quorum level that reflects a proper majority of the board as opposed to its current level of 13 members and making the Right-to-Know Law fully applicable to all state-related universities, including Penn State, according to the letter.
The suggestion to amend the governor’s involvement on the board is an effort to avoid “conflicts of interest, real or perceived” that may result, according to the letter.
Any changes to universities’ Right-to-Know requirements would also try to protect “the institutions’ donor contributions, certain intellectual property rights, and proprietary research,” according to the letter.
With regard to the recommendation for plucking the president from his board seat, Wagner said in his press conference broadcast on PCN that only 6 percent of colleges and universities have a president sit as a voting member of the board.
“The question has to be asked: Why does the president of Penn State University have so much power?” Wagner said. “Why is so much power vested in a singular person at the largest university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania? The President cannot be an employee and an equal to the board.”
In his press conference, Wagner also made it clear that he thinks Penn State should be publicly accountable for its actions.
“If there’s any point I want to stress today, that’s the most important point,” Wagner said. “That Penn State does not operate in an isolated fashion. It cannot operate in secrecy. Decisions made at Penn State are decisions that impact the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in addition to that university.”
In his press conference, Wagner also noted that the Department of the Auditor General has been working on its own report on Penn State for a few months.
Wagner’s recommendations come after the release of former FBI Director Louis Freeh’s investigative report into how four Penn State leaders handled Jerry Sandusky’s child abuse. One of Freeh’s 119 recommendations was to “evaluate the span of control of the University President and make adjustments as necessary to ensure that the President’s duties are realistic and capable of the President’s oversight and control.”
The auditor general’s report is separate from Freeh’s.
Sandusky, the former Penn State defensive coordinator, was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts of child sexual abuse on June 22.
According to Freeh’s report, former head football coach Joe Paterno, former President Graham Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Interim Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz knew about incidents involving Sandusky and boys in 1998 and 2001, but did not do enough to prevent Sandusky from repeating his actions.
Collegian staff writer Casey McDermott contributed to this report.