The Honorable Tom Wolf and The Honorable Jake Corman:
It was with grave disappointment that the Penn State student body was informed on Friday September 1, that the Governor did not intend to appoint a student as one of his selections to the Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees, a tradition that had lasted since 1971.
As the representative of the undergraduate student body, I feel passionately about furthering student representation on governing bodies that directly affect Penn State students. Therefore, this 46-year tradition was one that was revered among students, administrators, and other Trustees. The governor-appointed student trustee has historically been applauded by their fellow board members for bringing an inimitable perspective, matched with poise and professionalism.
The past two years I have attended every Board of Trustees meeting. I always felt comfort in knowing there were two people I could relate to directly, two students, in a group of professionals who may have not stepped on campus in months, let alone go through the day to day challenges of a student. Although the Board is bursting with talent and expertise, it is always nice to see a familiar face of someone you know is representing your needs. The governor appointed student trustee has always served as a reliable, relatable outlet for students to voice their concerns to the Board, and for the Board to communicate directly back to its main constituency. For years, the governor appointed student trustee has lived and walked the same streets as the students we represent. It is a shame for the thousands of students across Pennsylvania, that this position has been shuttered by an opaque process.
For several months, students from throughout the Commonwealth have advocated that the Governor uphold tradition and continue to appoint a student. When student leaders learned that there was a chance the governor would end this precedent, we immediately began to act. We traveled to Harrisburg to talk to members of the Governors’ staff; we traveled to Senator Corman’s office to do the same. Additionally, we had several conversations with Board members and wrote letters to anyone who could possibly influence this decision. Unfortunately, as the representative of more than 100,000 of your constituents, we were not provided any updates on a process that previously involved students every step of the way. Allegations of your offices using Penn State trustee appointees as political assets or for campaign donor promises continues to unsettle me.
To say I am disappointed is an understatement. Representing students is something that I take seriously, and something you should take seriously as well. I am discouraged by the indirect response to the positive student requests made to your offices over the last two years on this issue.
We will continue to advocate for what we know is best for the highest governing body of our University, and hope that in the future, student advocacy will not be overlooked for personal or political gains. Students deserve the same respect as any other university entity. After all, this University was created to serve its students.
Student Body President