This Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting will be the first time Penn State has allowed for public comment — though, it’s is not something that is unfamiliar to other Big Ten universities.
At the University of Illinois, the Board of Trustees meetings has a 30-minute time frame for public comment that has been in their procedures for several years, Executive Director for University Relations at the University of Illinois, Thomas Hardy said.
“It’s successful, worthwhile and legally required of any public institution,” Hardy said, “for the public to express its positions to the institution.”
According to the Illinois Board of Trustees bylaws, registrants have three business days to request to speak in front of the board and are given five minutes each. Up to six people per meeting are allowed to speak.
The University of Illinois Board of Trustees also has a public meeting this Friday.
The Ohio State University Board of Trustees has also allowed for public comment at their public meetings but rarely see a presence.
Ann Lawrence, associate secretary to the Board of Trustees at Ohio State, said that very seldom do they see public individuals attend the meetings but the option has always been available to them.
According to its bylaws, “any matter proposed for the board’s consideration other than from a board member or from the president of the university shall be presented to the secretary of the board at least two weeks prior to the meeting at which it is to be considered by the board.”
Since this is the first time such a privilege has been allowed at Penn State, some PSU organizations have been eager and anxious for the upcoming meeting since the agenda was posted last week.
The agenda for the meeting, which was posted online on Sept. 7, allows 30 minutes of time for “public expression” to be heard by the trustees. Those interested in speaking must condense their comments to three minutes. Do the math and ten people are allowed a turn to step in front of the university’s governing body.
A form is also required to register for a spot at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting, which plots out the certain topics that each registrant will be permitted to speak about.
At the first Penn State Board meeting with public comment, seven individuals will have a chance to speak, University spokesman David La Torre wrote in an email.
“The Board is looking forward to receiving public comment from the Penn State community,” La Torre wrote. “The Board has enjoyed working in an open, public format that allows the community to witness how it operates.”
The public comment section of the meeting is scheduled to occur between 2:30 and 3 p.m. on Friday, according to the agenda.
Members of the Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship organization have always attended Board of Trustees meetings, PS4RS spokeswoman Maribeth Schmidtsaid, and have been gathering questions and comments to say at the meeting since the agenda’s release.
The board voted back in July to have a public comment session for members of the public to be given the opportunity to express their concerns.
Schmidt said the organization is primarily looking for the board to produce a memo of understanding, a letter of intent and the scope of work for their decision to hire former FBI Director Louis Freeh in November.
The organization asked for this letter a few months ago in a formal memo, Schmidt said, but received back no response.
She went on to say that Freeh report — which was released in July — is something the board should have never accepted because it lacked detail and investigation of key people.
Scott Kimler, an executive committee member for the Penn State Alumni for Reorganization of the PSU Board of Trustees or PSU-ReBOT, said his organization is not in favor of attending the meeting due to lack of productivity it would present.
The Board of Trustees meeting will be held at the Nittany Lion Inn on Friday at 1:30 p.m. in the boardroom. It is open to the public.
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