Board of Trustees Meets, Oldsey Added to Presidential Search Committee
The Board of Trustees met Friday afternoon for its regular session, and while it wasn’t quite as headline-inducing as the morning briefing with Sen. Mitchell, there were still a few important takeaways to consider.
Board chairman Keith Masser began the meeting with one of the bigger announcements of the day; PS4RS endorsed alumni trustee Bill Oldsey will now be added to the presidential search committee to find Penn State’s next president. Several trustees — in particular, Anthony Lubrano — have been critical of the process, which has remained relatively secret so far. The search committee is made up of 13 members, including most of the executive committee, and consists of some of the most powerful and tenured trustees.
“[Oldsley] will help us continue this important process, as well as bring his wealth of experience to the table,” Masser said. The board offered no update or timeline for selecting Rodney Erickson’s successor, although they are still on pace to name a candidate before his retirement in July 2014.
“We are and have always been committed to find the next great president of Penn State,” Masser said. “We will keep you apprised as the process proceeds.”
President Erickson gave an update on the application pool for summer/fall 2014. Undergraduate applications are up 16 percent university wide from this point last year, including 18 percent at University Park. Interestingly, out-of-state applications are up 30 percent, and minority applications are up 21 percent for University Park.
“Prospective students and their families are equally positive about Penn State’s future,” Erickson said.
The public comment session was a little different than previous meetings. Seven of the 10 speaker slots were filled by students — including representatives from UPUA and CCSG — most of which had specific recommendations for how to improve governance. One of these recommendations include implementing a permanent student trustee. As it stands, the governor appoints a student to serve on the board, although it is strictly traditional and not required. UPUA Chair Anthony Panichelli asked the board not to delay creating such a position.
“We feel we deserve to be included in these positive structural reforms. We want this student trustee to be permanent, so that there will never be a question again about student representation on this board,” Panichelli said. “We see no reason to wait for a governance consultant to make these changes we have already suggested.”
Panichelli also advocated for a student-selection process instead of a governor appointee.
“This permanent student position should not be selected by the governor of Pennsylvania, but it should be selected by a process here at Penn State,” Panichelli said. “We should decide who represents us on this board.”
Other topics from students included financial literacy, mitigating potential negative effects of the Affordable Care Act in university employment, and Commonwealth campuses.
The final speaker, Rick Riegel, a Penn State graduate and a father of two students, took the opportunity to bash the movement in some alumni circles aimed at restoring Joe Paterno’s legacy and reforming university governance; specifically, Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship. This was an unusual instance as far as public comment sessions go where those interests usually reign supreme.
“There is no value on dwelling on the past because we can’t change it. Students have moved on a long time ago,” Riegel said. “I am concerned that PS4RS and the board members they have elected do not share my values for the university.”
The rest of the meeting went relatively smoothly, with an interesting presentation by Anne Rohrbach the executive director of undergraduate admissions, and Anna Griswold, the executive director for student aid. Here are some of the statistics the pair presented:
- Penn State currently has 13,287 students enrolled in World Campus, with an average age of 33 coming from 54 countries.
- 73% of Penn State students are from Pennsylvania.
- The average debt for graduating Penn State seniors is $35,101, while the national average is $26,600. Despite this, Penn State graduates still have a lower loan default rate.
Finally, the board discussed hiring a new governance consultant named Holly Gregory from Weil, Gotshal & Manges in New York. I wrote last week about the contentious discussion within the Governance and Long-Range Planning committee, in which trustees Anthony Lubrano and Barbara Doran opposed Gregory’s hiring based on comments she made a year ago about marginalizing dissenting board members. Doran backtracked a bit on her no-vote after speaking to Gregory.
“I am quite comfortable hiring her,” Doran said.
The next regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting is set for January 17. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll have a president by then.