As reforms concerning the Penn State Board of Trustees circulate, proposals made are looking to move Penn State forward.
Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre, released proposed reforms to the Penn State Board of Trustees Tuesday at a State College news conference prompted by recommendations issued by outgoing Auditor General Jack Wagner .
The reforms consist of a multi-bill package designed to increase accountability and transparency among Penn State's Board of Trustees, according to a press release issued by Conklin.
“These are comprehensive and overarching reforms that we have been diligently working on,” Conklin said in the release.
Tor Michaels, chief of staff for Conklin, said the reforms consist of four bills to reform the Board of Trustees. Among the four bills, he said, there are changes concerning size, membership, elections, ethics and term length.
Stephany Dugan, broadcast specialist from the House Demographic Communications Office for Conklin, said these reforms are following suit to the proposals made by Wagner.
“Scott picked up the ball and ran with it,” she said.
Dugan said some of the bills have more reforms than others, and as it moves forward, legislators will review and amend the proposed reforms. She said that the reforms can change along the way, and that this is the starting point of the legislative process.
Michaels said that the reforms were based on research and are bipartisan. He also said the reforms would put Penn State in compliance with the state’s Right-To-Know law.
“This is a public university and the public deserves full disclosure on how their tax dollars are being spent,” Conklin said in the release.
Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, said that he supports the Pennsylvania Right-To-Know law and that it should have been implemented in full at Penn State in the past.
In response to the proposed reforms, University Spokesman David La Torre wrote in an email that the university welcomes the input from Conklin.
“The university is currently working to assess and implement reform recommendations made in the Freeh Report,” he wrote in an email. “To date, 61 of 119 have been completed, including important reforms for the Board of Trustees.”
He also wrote that the university will closely review the state Senate’s report, as well as those provided by Wagner and Conklin in the coming months.
Benninghoff said that an internal review of the size of the Board of Trustees is a worthy discussion.
He also said he has a proposed bill of his own that would prohibit any sitting governor or any cabinet members on any board of directors if they receive state money because he said it is a conflict of interest.
Benninghoff also said while Penn State wants to stop child sexual abuse and increase communication between employees and supervisors, there has to be a balance by allowing elected boards to govern.
Overall, changes to the Board of Trustees are entering legislation, and Michaels said he is hoping that these changes move forward.
“We hope Old Main will welcome this as we move forward,” Michaels said. “We want to move forward at Penn State.”
Conklin said the current system at Penn State needs to be updated, adding that some of the university bylaws have not been changed since 1855, according to the release.
“At the end of the day, it's about providing the students with the best education at one of the country's finest institutions, but you have to have solid fundamentals and that start from the top down,” Conklin said in the release.