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Upward State Candidates Recommend Commission to Honor Paterno

You don’t need to be a member of PS4RS to respect Joe Paterno’s legacy. Upward State, a group that is positioned as a positive alternative to PS4RS, announced a proposal yesterday to form a commission that would find ways to honor the former coach.

Upward State — led by three past presidents of the Penn State Alumni Association, two current students, and other stakeholders — has endorsed three candidates in the 32-person field for the upcoming Board of Trustees election: Dan Cocco (’08)Julie Harris McHugh (’86), and Matt Schuyler (’87). They’re running on a forward-thinking platform and have made several campus appearances to meet with students since its official formation earlier this month.

The group hopes to compel President-elect Eric Barron to appoint  and establish a ‘Presidential Commission to Honor Coach Paterno,’ which would make recommendations on how to honor the former coach.

“We have confidence in Dr. Barron’s judgment to know when to appoint the commission and act on its recommendations to honor Joe,” McHugh said. “Meanwhile, the best way for all of us to honor Coach Paterno’s legacy is to continue making our University the academic powerhouse that he envisioned and helped build, and to ensure that Penn State students receive the world-class education they deserve. “

The group says that even though their platform is focused on the future of Penn State, alumni still want to recognize and honor Penn State’s proud past.

“Alumni overwhelmingly favor public recognition of Coach Joe Paterno’s years of service to Penn State,” Cocco said. “We are proud that all three of the Upward State candidates are running on a platform that includes a plank to recognize Joe Paterno for his significant contributions to Penn State’s legacy of excellence in academics and athletics.”

The Paterno commission idea is only one part of the Upward State platform that continues to be unveiled periodically leading up to the election in two weeks. Earlier this week, the campaign also released a five-prong plan for improving transparency within the Board:

1. The Board of Trustees should add to its staff an experienced communications professional whose primary responsibility will be to clearly communicate board decisions and processes to Penn State constituencies. This will ensure that communications to the board are listened to and answered in a timely fashion. This individual should work in close coordination with other communications professionals working for the university under the direction of a single university-wide communications director to ensure consistency with the University’s overall communications policies.

2. A Statement of Communication Policies and Procedures should be developed, published and, most importantly, followed. By explaining the means and frequency of communications that alumni and others can expect, this Communications Statement would go a long way toward helping outside constituencies understand how to communicate with the Board and how soon they can expect a response.

3. The Board of Trustees and its staff should work collaboratively with alumni and alumni groups on an ongoing basis to consider and institute best practices designed to significantly improve two-way communication between alumni and the Board.

4. A new forum should be created to communicate directly to students. While a mission of the University is to educate students, it is clear in recent discussions with students that they feel isolated from the Board. A forum for a direct two-way dialog on a continuing basis – at least quarterly – needs to be established.

5. Each committee of the Board should establish its own page on the Board’s website that would be updated after each meeting and/or as events occur. By distributing this important communication channel to each committee, more useful information would be more easily accessed by interested alumni, staff, faculty, parents and students.

“A trustee needs to be a conduit for a two-way conversation between the leadership of the university and the constituencies that they serve,” said McHugh. “We want to make sure we are always catalysts to that two-way conversation. We need trustees who can communicate their constituents’ views to the Board – what matters to parents, students, alumni, faculty and staff – and then regularly report back to them on decisions that are being made.”

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