After years of discussion in student government circles, the prospect of having a permanent student-selected student trustee on the Penn State Board of Trustees made its biggest step forward at today’s Committee on Governance and Long-Range Planning meeting.
UPUA President Katelyn Mullen announced the preliminary plan a month ago, in partnership with CCSG and GSA, and it passed through the committee today with a few stipulations. The Board is planning to propose a large-scale Board restructuring in September, but with current student trustee Peter Khoury graduating in May, the process needed to be expedited in order to ensure a student will always be on the Board.
“With Peter’s graduation, we would not have the opportunity to have an active student sitting on this board when tuition was considered [this summer],” committee chair Keith Eckel said. “The three student organization groups [UPUA, CCSG, GSA] have had at least three meanings with Keith Masser and myself discussing the desire to have a student trustee sit on the board of trustees by definition. The students see this as very important and so do I.”
After that initial introduction, there seemed to be a slight difference in priorities. While the student proposal was aimed at taking the control of the student selection process out of the hands of the governor and into the hands of a student committee, the committee seemed more concerned to the reality of Khoury’s graduation. Eckel mentioned that the reasoning behind bringing this proposal up now was merely a “stopgap” in case Governor Corbett fails to appoint a student before Khoury’s graduation.
“After speaking with the governor and the governor’s office, he feels confident he can get a student appointed,” Eckel said. “The governor felt, with having all that put in place, that he could get a student put in place for July. This would be a stopgap measure. And then we can readdress the permanency of that seat with our total package.”
CCSG President and committee member Molly Droelle acknowledged that Khoury’s graduation was important to the timing, but the selection process was just as important.
“The students feel that the appointment of this needs to be taken from the governor and put in the hands of the students,” Droelle said. “The students will select the student who they feel is the right student.”
Eckel seemed to agree with the sentiment, although more focused on the permanent aspect of the position than the selection process.
“We need to move forward with making that position permanent,” Eckel said. “It is my desire that one of our recommendations be that a student is put here permanently.”
Most of the trustees seemed to concur with Eckel — it was a good idea to add permanence to the student trustee, but there was little discussion or acknowledgement about the student application process currently in place. The only concern to the trustees seemed to be the imminence of Khoury’s graduation, not with the clandestine nature of gubernatorial appointments that student government leaders were trying to change.
Ultimately, the committee passed the recommendation through with an 8-1 vote, with only Anthony Lubrano dissenting. Lubrano cited his concern that this idea was “sprung” on him, and he wanted to wait until the full reform package was constructed in September to move on this.
The matter will not go before the full board tomorrow; the stipulation was added that this measure will only go to the board in May if the governor doesn’t appoint a student. If the governor acts, the debate will rage on through the summer for a September reform bill.
Also, Eckel disclosed that Penn State sent out 186,000 Board of Trustees nomination forms, at a cost of $80,000, and received a total of 400 back. So, there’s that.