“Gavin Keirans, he’s the man, when he walks through the streets they yell ‘Vote Gavin’ Yo we lost last year, but he’s coming back again, he’s coming back strong, and he’s coming back to win…Vote Gavin, vote Gavin, vote Gavin…”
Gavin Keirans’ famous UPUA campaign song might be making a comeback this year. The two-term UPUA President and former student activist officially announced his candidacy for the Penn State Board of Trustees earlier this afternoon.
“It’s a long time coming,” Keirans said in a phone interview on the eve of his announcement. “But I’m excited to be back.”
Keirans has the unique distinction of being the only student-body president to serve two terms since the organization made the transition from USG to UPUA in 2006, leading the 3rd and 4th assemblies from 2008 to 2010. His accomplishments as president are well documented, and he is often credited for stabilizing the organization during its infancy after a rough transition and early controversies. Notably, Keirans was able to secure UPUA’s $140,000 standing budget, establish Penn State’s Office of Legal Services, create the freshman handbook (S-Book), and extend student bus hours during weekends. Most of all, his candid and affable leadership style helped him form meaningful relationships with countless administrators and student leaders — relationships that the student government still benefits from today.
“I still have relationships with probably 80 percent of President’s Council. My contacts around Penn State are probably better than most of the incumbents and people running,” Keirans said. “I’m not naïve to the challenges of bureaucracy. As a student, I was able to see through that…We didn’t just talk about doing things. We worked our butt off and got them done.”
Keirans’ activism wasn’t limited to student government. He was, at one time, the Executive Director of the now-defunct student advocacy group Safeguard Old State. The organization has become known, at least in recent history, for its hard-hitting exposé on former Student Affairs VP Vicky Triponey, but Keirans says that he has a track record of being able to work with people in Old Main even if he doesn’t always agree with them.
“Obviously some unpopular decisions were made,” Keirans said. “People can poke and criticize from the outside at these folks, but I think I’ll be able to sit across the table from them and engage in dialogue – like I did as an undergraduate and will do as a trustee.”
Keirans’ announcement comes in tangent with the release of his 31-page campaign platform (embedded below). Some central goals include involving more students and alumni councils in the business of the Board, installing more alumni-elected trustees on the Board’s executive committee (there is currently only one), finding creative ways to reduce expenses university wide, forming stronger relationships with the Commonwealth campuses, better promoting the accomplishments of students and alumni, and honoring the legacy of Joe and Sue Paterno. Keirans discusses those goals in greater detail in his platform and says his current position as a management consultant with Accenture in Philadelphia and former position as an Executive Board Member of the Alumni Association make him uniquely experienced to take on the challenges of a trusteeship.
“Penn State was so instrumental in my own life and it helped shape me into the person I am today,” Keirans said. “We’re going to treat this is a statewide and global campaign and reengage with the teams that were so pivotal to my presidential victories…I think it’s a unique time in Penn State history, with all the transitions. It’s a perfect time to help shape the direction.”
Of course, Keirans is no stranger to the politics that have dominated Board of Trustees alumni elections in recent history. Last year, the three candidates endorsed by Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship ran away with the election. With three new alumni up for reelection who were also on the Board during the November 2011 mess, PS4RS is aiming for another sweep — and Keirans hopes he can be a part of that.
“Going after that endorsement is a big part of this. I plan is to leave no stone unturned,” Keirans said. “These alumni and the folks they are voting in need to have a greater say and a greater role in how the Board functions.”
Keirans joins recent graduate Dan Cocco, Ryan Bagwell, Joshua Fulmer, Bob Jubelirer, and Seth Williams to publicly announce their candidacy (to my knowledge, at least). All candidates need to receive 50 nominations by February 25 to appear on the ballot. Voting begins on April 10 (alumni need to request a ballot), and the three winners will be announced at the May 9 meeting. Dozens of candidates are likely to throw their name into the hat (86 ran in 2012, 39 in 2013), but Keirans says he’s ready for the challenge.
“We’re looking to make this something really memorable and have a lot of fun,” Keirans said. “I’m ready for this…I know I’m ready.”