The Board of Trustees’ Committee on Governance and Long-Range Planning unanimously agreed that a student-selected student trustee should sit on the board in a big win for students, and also sparred over the reformation of alumni seats during its long meeting this morning at the Penn Stater.
The committee discussed parts of three reform proposals at length but did not make a recommendation, instead deciding that the recommendation should come after the full board meeting in September for an official Board vote in October. Two of the proposals included relatively moderate changes to the make-up of the board, while the third proposal would drastically reduce the number of voting members from 30 to 18, a board of 20 overall members. They’re included in full at the bottom of this post.
On the student trustee seat, UPUA Vice President Emily McDonald said it’s “insulting” to students that the governor should select which student sits on the board, and that continuing that process would not be beneficial to the board. The committee’s trustees agreed — as Richard Dandrea said, it “insulates the student selection from the political process.” Lubrano said he would modify the only proposal that required the governor to appoint a student trustee so that the trio of proposals all reflect a student trustee selected by students. After the discussion, chair Keith Eckel gave McDonald props for one of the most effective arguments he’s heard at a committee meeting.
So, expect the committee to include a permanent student trustee spot in its full recommendation to the board in September. The culmination for UPUA’s long fight to have a permanent student seat gets closer.
But it wouldn’t be a Governance meeting without some bickering. Anthony Lubrano and Barbara Doran versus Dandrea provided most of it today, to no one’s surprise, over the number of alumni seats. Dandrea was in favor of decreasing the number of seats from nine to six, citing data from governance consultant Holly Gregory that, of 36 comparable schools, alumni trustees make up 1.6 percent of their voting body, but Penn State’s percentage is a near 20-fold increase. Further, the business trustee noted that less than 5 percent of alumni voted in the last election.
“The reaction to this shouldn’t be shrill or hyperbolic,” Dandrea said. “This isn’t an attack or assault on the alumni trustees.”
The reaction did, however, venture into shrill territory. Lubrano didn’t agree that alumni seats should be reduced, giving us the only voice-raising of the whole four-hour meeting. He brought up what he called the elephant in the room, that the majority of the board thinks the alumni-elected PS4RS trustees will harm the board if given more reach. He said that “fair does not mean equal,” in reference to the numbers of trustees, and countered Dandrea with the inequity in the number of agriculture trustees compared to the number of agriculture students here (about 3 percent).
Doran jumped in, saying she was “extremely skeptical” of the motivation behind Dandrea’s proposal, to which he responded that “alumni trustees have marginalized themselves” by violation of confidentially and furthering an agenda that is at the disregard of the board majority.
So, while we can expect little discussion of the student trustee at the next governance meeting, the alumni seat should provide some more drama as the committee tries to settle on a proposal.
Board size was another point today, one about which the trustees presented some different views that we’ve heard most of already at the last governance meeting. Chair Keith Masser made a “size doesn’t matter” joke regarding both his height and the board’s size, but also citing a need to mitigate the bloc voting that we saw the board display on Wednesday. Doran, on the other hand, noted that Penn State’s voting size makes it an outlier among Big Ten schools. All of the trustees did agree that no matter what size they settle on, it is imperative that the board consist of engaged, active trustees.