The Penn State Board of Trustees plans to discuss recommendations for reform of Penn State’s structure and rule-making process at their scheduled retreat in January. In November, the office of the Auditor General released a report detailing numerous recommendations made after careful investigation of “best practices” in University governance. The process for developing the recommendations was open and inclusive. A grassroots group of students, alumni, faculty and friends of Penn State, Penn Staters Reforming the Board of Trustees (PSU-ReBOT), conducted exhaustive research on governance at 63 comparable universities, and presented the results and their recommendations to the Auditor General. The Board was informed last summer that this
work was underway, and had ample opportunity to participate – but opted out.
The recommendations are common sense methods to modernize the way the Board conducts its business: reducing the number of Trustees to enhance efficiency, eliminating conflict of interest by removing as voting members the Governor and the university president, implementing ethical protections so that the university’s best interests are not sacrificed for personal gain. Response by the Board has thus far been dismissive. Trustee Carl Shaffer said the recommendations were not relevant to Penn State because, “it is unique”. Board Chair Karen Peetz proposed hiring a consultant to research the recommendations – research already done at no cost to PSU, by the Auditor General’s office. Clearly, the Board intends to use foot-dragging strategies to delay the inevitable.
It is clear that it is time to reform the governance practices at Penn State. Penn Staters are grateful to Auditor General Wagner for his leadership, and PSU-ReBOT urges anyone that believes the Penn State Board would benefit from reform to write letters to the Board of Trustees saying so (Trustee Contact Info). It is our preference that the Board embraces reform voluntarily, but if they do not, PSU-ReBOT will work tirelessly to ensure that reform is mandated through legislation.