Let’s call the proposal to reduce the size of Penn State’s Board of Trustees, introduced by a pair of state senators on Wednesday, exactly what it is: naked pandering to a Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship cartel hellbent on gaining more power to further its JoePa-first agenda.
That’s not to say the senators didn’t make valid points about the ineffectiveness of a bloated and disengaged board. Penn State is certainly worse off for the board’s leadership in the face of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, and internally, board reform is a good discussion to have. But we’re talking about politicians, and it’s fairly clear the senators’ reform is aimed at currying favor (and votes, sweet votes) with one interest group: PS4RS-affiliated alumni indignant that the Board took their dear coach away.
The proposal on the table calls for every sector of the board — alumni, business and industry, agriculture and the governor’s office — to lose a seat. That translates to more power for the alumni-elected positions, which PS4RS has taken a stranglehold on electing with highly organized grassroots campaigns targeted at football fan alums who probably haven’t talked about academics since they wandered out of their fraternities on graduation day in 1973.
If the parts of the board fire-walled from the whims of the alumni electorate lose three seats compared to the alumni’s one, that’s a huge swing in power. That’s why PS4RS-elected trustee Anthony Lubrano was at the senators’ press conference to announce his support.
He’d likely be a huge winner if the legislation passes. If the senators were genuine in their tough talk on bloated boards, they’d be crafting legislation to curb the 36-member board at the University of Pittsburgh, another state-related school with a governing body actually larger than Penn State’s.
And that’s probably the most transparent look into what motivates the senators, who no doubt could eye runs for U.S. House seats with a group as organized as PS4RS behind them. It’s good politics, but it’s not good for the university.
So if you’re interested in a Penn State that isn’t ruled by the same PS4RS folks who’ve talked more about getting Sweet Caroline played at Beaver Stadium than reforming the General Education program, contact your state officials and urge them to defeat the Penn State University Board of Trustees Reorganization Act.
Or as I like to call it, the Football Fans Should Run This Town Act.