Trustees Hear MVP-Caliber Public Comment Speech

Most Board of Trustees public comment addresses can be broken into two categories — students/faculty asking for something or angry alumni.

This dichotomy leads to some “fun” times, but the latter group can be a bit formulaic in their three-minute soliloquies. With few exceptions, the typical angry alumni address goes something like this:

1. A quick note on the speaker’s connection to Penn State and a profession of love.

2. Compliment the alumni trustees.

3. A loaded adjective directed toward the rest of the trustees — most speakers go with “ashamed” or “failure of leadership.” The word “fiduciary” always makes an appearance, too.

4. Something about Joe Paterno.

5. Something about Louis Freeh.

6. Something about how Penn State spent a ton of money in the Sandusky fallout.

7. Back to Joe Paterno. Usually a “success with honor” mention.

8. Something about how we can’t move on until we find the truth.

9. A Joe Paterno quote — usually the classic “Believe deep down in your heart that you’re destined to do great things.”

10. A call for all non-alumni trustees to resign. Tears optional.

11. Applause. Standing ovation, depending on how loud the call for resignation was.

12. Keith Masser tries to speak over applause.

13. Repeat 10 times.

That’s all well and good of course, but it makes it all the more special when something more unique comes along. Meet Jon Dandrea, a former Penn State student and previous host of Radio Free Penn State on The LION 90.7 FM. Nestled between an angry alumna (see: formula above) and a student, Dandrea delivered what was the most exhilarating public comment address of all time (and I’ve heard them all). Rife with sarcasm but bolstered by real suggestions, Dandrea drew the loudest applause in recent memory. Agree with him or not, you will be entertained. NOTE: To get the video to work, click play and then move the cursor just slightly to the right. Otherwise it will stall out forever:

And here’s the transcript if you want to enjoy it again:

Fellow Penn Staters, Trustees,

My name is Jon Dandrea. No relation.

Today, you approved the so-called “A+” measure to radically reconstitute the Board; which, were it graded on ethics, prudence, necessity and fairness; it would unmistakably deserve an “F.”

First, we had an appointed Trustee from Business and Industry agitating to reduce the number of duly-elected Alumni Trustees. When that failed, the new plan was to dilute their influence by stacking the Board with more unelected, unaccountable trustees. How is this anything other than factious behavior? How can this possibly be helpful to our Alma Mater, let alone “in the best interests of the university?” Explain yourselves. Why this, and why now?

Could it be that you, the unelected, unaccountable power block of the Board, were alarmed by the landslide sweep of all nine alumni-elected seats, and frightened by the prospect of being held accountable yourselves? You’re losing, so now you changed the rules, to further protect your power.

This behavior is nothing new, and was explained clearly in Dr. Ben Novak’s “Reflections of a Former Trustee,” on his website, BenNovak.net.

Under your proposal, there would be even more unelected, unaccountable trustees, than the present super-majority. The Faculty, Student and “at-large” Trustees would all be elected by the Board exclusively. Their constituencies would be their fellow Board Members, and not the stakeholders of our Alma Mater. Do you not trust our own students and faculty to elect a Trustee, when the Commonwealth and the Federal Government trust them to elect Representatives, Senators and the President of the United States?

If radically reforming the Board is fair game now, then this Dandrea has his own plan. I call it the “Lion’s Share Plan.” There would be a total of 13 trustees, the same number originally established by our “Founders, strong and great.” This would make the Board more manageable, and would remove the cliquish, opaque, unaccountable Executive Committee — the misrule of which has been a source of many of our University’s recent and continuing troubles.

The 13 Trustees would be elected as follows:

One would be elected by all students directly.
One would be elected by all faculty directly.
One would be directly elected by all the members of the Agricultural Societies, with secret ballots.
One would be directly elected on a statewide ballot by all Pennsylvania voters.

Last, but certainly not least, the remaining nine would be directly elected by all alumni and eligible former students, as is currently done.

All trustees would be elected. None would be appointed. All would be directly accountable all the stakeholders of our Alma Mater.

Clearly, such an idea would be anathema to the ruling, unelected, unaccountable power block of the
Board, but that’s not the only reason to support it. I firmly believe that the best way to stay true to the purpose of our university, to make Penn State a better place; is to provide it with the democratic, clean, accountable governance that it has been sorely lacking. If you fail to do this, I call on the Commonwealth to amend the Charter.

Now, tear down the walls of unaccountability, and take down the cloak of secrecy, or we will.

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About the Author

Kevin Horne

Kevin Horne was the editor of Onward State from 2012-2014 and currently holds the position of Managing Editor Emeritus, which is a fake title he made up. He graduated from Penn State with degrees journalism and political science in 2014 and is currently seeking his J.D. at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. A third generation Penn Stater from Williamsport, Pa., Kevin is also the president of the graduate student government. Email: [email protected]

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