As the Penn State Board of Trustees continues to receive pressure for structural and operational reform, state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19th District, leads an endeavor to enact change in the university’s governing body.
Dinniman’s communications director Adam Cirucci said the senator, Class of 1978, expects the bill that Dinniman introduced — which seeks to reduce the size of the Board of Trustees from 32 to 21 members — to be referred to committee sometime this week.
Specifically, it would reduce the members of the board that the governor appoints from six to four, the number the alumni elected from nine to six, the number county agricultural societies elected from six to four and the number the business and industry groups elected from six to four.
“We are not just going after one group,” Cirucci said.
This draft of legislation would also remove the position of the university president from the Board of Trustees and change the status of the governor from a voting to a nonvoting member. It would further prohibit the president of the university from serving as a trustee, secretary or officer of another board or any other committee.
“Senator Dinniman wants to make a clear separation between the board and the university administration. He feels that the leadership needs to be responsive and needs to be effective,” Cirucci said. “There needs to be that clear distinction.”
Dinniman further wants to specify that emeriti board members are honorary and thereby do not have the right to vote, he said.
This bill would also change the quorum requirement from seven voting members to the majority of the voting members, making it 11 out of 21.
The senator is also introducing a bill that would put board members, administrative members and all applicable employees of state-related universities, including Penn State, under the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act, which they are not currently under. This pertains to the Pennsylvania Right to Know law for state-related universities.
Legislative Director for Senator Dinniman Martin Indars said the set of legislation for trustee reform, known as Senate Bill 410, was introduced Feb. 1.
Penn State spokesman David La Torre said via email the Board of Trustees is examining a host of recommendations and is awaiting a report from Faculty Senate.
“We’ll consider all recommendations, including Sen. Dinniman’s, in the coming months,” he added.
Trustee Anthony Lubrano said via email that he generally supports any effort to improve the governance of Penn State.
“Senator Dinniman’s proposed legislation is a welcome step in that direction. The entire Penn State community should welcome any effort to improve openness and transparency in the governance of the university,” he said.