Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf will break a 43-year tradition this year in announcing his next appointee to Penn State’s Board of Trustees is not a Penn State student. University Park Undergraduate Association President Katie Jordan announced in her weekly report she was informed the governor has narrowed down his appointees to a few finalists, none of whom are students.
Jordan penned a letter to Governor Wolf on behalf of the undergraduate student body in June urging him to appoint a student to serve on the Board.
“Although students are represented on six of the Board’s seven committees, the true impact stems from the voting individuals of the Board,” Jordan wrote. “Students have first hand experience regarding the issues they and their peers face daily — what is working well at Penn State as well as what needs improvement — yet students make up only 5 percent of the Board’s total voting membership.”
Graduate and Professional Student Association President Matt Krott soon followed suit, echoing Jordan’s sentiments on the significance of appointing a student trustee.
“By maintaining the tradition of appointing a student as a voting member of the Board of Trustees, you can ensure that Penn State students continue to have a significant voice in one of the Commonwealth’s leading and widest-reaching educational institutions,” Krott wrote.
At last year’s summer meeting of the Board of Trustees, trustees finally agreed to support the allowance of all three sets of student government presidents and vice presidents to sit on Board committees, though as non-voting members. This allowed each committee of the Board to integrate student perspective.
Former student government leaders also attempted to reach out to the governor’s office during the 2016-2017 academic year, but were met with stark silence from Wolf.
Trustee Allie Goldstein – a Penn State graduate student – just finished her Tom Corbett-appointed term on the Board of Trustees. When she was appointed, she was the only student serving on the Board. If Governor Wolf had appointed a student this year, Penn State could’ve seen two students serving as voting trustees for the first time ever.
In the past two years, the Board has seen structure changes including the addition of a codified student-selected voting student trustee. Former University Park Allocation Committee Chair Mike Hoeschele was recently selected to fill the position. While this was an incredible stride for the student body, it of course caused concern that Wolf may not appoint a second student to serve on the Board. And rightly so.
With Wolf’s non-student appointment, the student voting weight on the Board actually decreases, as the size of the Board as a whole has increased in the past two years as well.
It’s more of the same for Penn State’s Board of Trustees: one step forward, two steps back.