The third candidate to publicly throw their hat into the ring for the 2014 Penn State Board of Trustees election is no stranger to the process. This is the third go-around for 2002 graduate Ryan Bagwell, who will look to use the recent notoriety from his open records initiative to propel him into one of the three alumni seats up for grabs in this year’s election.
Bagwell ran in both 2012 and 2013, garnering 482 and 1,360 votes respectively, well short of the winning total. But Bagwell has made a name for himself, especially in the most recent year, as a fierce reformer, which just might be enough to nab the coveted PS4RS endorsement — the ticket to winning the election, at least in recent history.
“More than two years ago, the world tried to destroy the Penn State family. And our own leaders turned their backs on us when we needed them the most,” Bagwell wrote in his announcement. “Today Penn State is in a better place, but more work lies ahead. And as the university community marches forward, we have to remain committed to long-term reform.”
Bagwell has becoming known for pushing our leaders using Right to Know Law requests — 26 of them, according to his website – to obtain documents relating to the business of the Board of Trustees and the university, usually specific to the Jerry Sandusky fallout. And now, he has started the “Penn State Sunshine Fund” to help pay for the legal fees required to continually battle Penn State in court.
Bagwell has already won several court battles with Penn State over some interesting records. For example, he was able to obtain a series of emails between board members last month, including then-Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis, about President Rodney Erickson and his acceptance of the NCAA consent decree.
“Penn State continues to face tremendous challenges that are becoming easier to ignore as they fade from the front page. It’s up to us – the alumni – to elect leaders who committed to changing the culture and tackling the university’s toughest challenges,” Bagwell wrote. “I’ve demonstrated my willingness to fight for the answers we deserve. If elected, I pledge to continue those efforts while representing your interests on the Board of Trustees.”
It would be an interesting juxtaposition if Bagwell gets some traction in this election. He has been a necessary thorn in Penn State’s side in his quest to obtain documents — a fact that would likely make it all the more difficult to work with the same people whose emails he is trying to make public. Whether he will be able to sell that position to alumni and the PS4RS endorsement board is yet to be seen, but Bagwell is certainly a big name in the Penn State reform movement, and someone to keep an eye on as the election progresses.
The election is currently in its nomination stage — Bagwell and other potential candidates won’t officially appear on the ballot until they receive 50 or more nominations — which will last until February 25. Voting begins on April 10 (alumni need to request a ballot), and the three winners will be announced at the May 9 meeting.