The biggest misconception about alumni watchdog groups, like Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, holds that supporters only care about somehow reversing late former head football coach Joe Paterno’s firing.
Of course, this is not true. Though pro-JoePa sentiment tinges the opinions of most university reformists, it is time to embrace their stances on the Penn State Board of Trustees’ structure.
The Jerry Sandusky scandal has started an inevitable process — one that will end with Penn State having one of the best administrative structures in academia anywhere.
A little more than a year after November 2011, when charges were first filed in the Sandusky case, Penn State already leads the nation in Clery Act compliance, athletic integrity and child abuse prevention.
Now, from a rational perspective, rather than an extreme one, Penn State’s board is utterly bloated. Recommendations from former Auditor General Jack Wagner, Gov. Tom Corbett and Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre, have all indicated this. In Wagner’s report, he notes that Penn State’s board has 32 members, and more than 18 members have voting privileges.
Other Big Ten schools average only 11 members, while the other top 19 largest schools in the country averaged 11.6 members.
These universities run more smoothly, with more regulation comes from a school’s board, rather than executives like its president.
Conklin has proposed legislation to reduce the size of Penn State’s board from 32 to 21, and remove the governor and university president as voting members.
The representative has also proposed mandating the university to comply with state Right to Know laws, something that the University of California, Ohio State, University of Texas and others already do. When taxpayers’ dollars are at stake, the state legislature should act on this option, while preserving the privacy of Penn State’s donors and research efforts.
Such reforms will cement the university’s long-term growth. Members of groups like PS4RS know this, and a receptive board will speed these necessary improvements along.
Kudos to new Board of Trustees Chairman Keith Masser and Vice Chairwoman Stephanie Deviney, who have pledged transparency beyond simply opening meetings to public comment sessions. Both have expressed their commitment to examine possible reforms, including changing the board’s makeup and size. It can’t and shouldn’t end with the Freeh Report.
Board members debated internal structure for hours at recent committee meetings, a step in the right direction.
They seemed to support making the university president a non-voting member, but sidestepped other, more sweeping measures. It’s that time of the year again for Penn State alumni to make their voice heard when it comes to university governance: elections for alumni trustees.
The nomination process will end Feb. 25 and voting will open in the spring. If this year is like the last, which saw more than 37,000 voters, turnout records may again be exceeded.
I urge those reading with voting powers to support reformist candidates who are in favor of term limits, more transparent voting processes and other recommendations.
According to the Associated Press, Barbara Doran, a prominent reformist board candidate who placed fourth in last year’s election, plans on running again.
I encourage students like myself, who will soon be graduating, to keep tabs on the efforts of those newly elected.
Under progressive board leadership, the university will move from a transitional period rife with turmoil to a hopeful new era if the suggestions outlined are taken seriously by the time the next Penn State president is selected in 2014.
Mike Hricik is a senior majoring in journalism and is The Daily Collegian’s Monday columnist. Email him at email@example.com.