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Alumni Association Concedes Legal Battle, Allows Additional Candidates On Ballot

The Penn State Alumni Association elections will feature two additional candidates for council on the ballot following a lawsuit. PSAA Executive Director Roger Williams agreed to let Dr. James Smith and Dr. Elizabeth Morgan onto the ballot after Smith sued the Alumni Association. Smith filed his lawsuit on March 12 after being denied a spot on the ballot by the Alumni Association’s Nominating Committee.

“I am pleased by the decision of the PSAA. However, I am deeply disappointed that litigation was necessary to protect the interests of the members of the PSAA,” Smith said in a press release. “The PSAA flagrantly violated its own bylaws when it decided to exclude our names. Why were they so afraid to allow the names of governance reform candidates such as Dr. Morgan and me from appearing on the upcoming ballot?”

Smith and Morgan met the nomination requirements and obtained 50 signatures, but were denied a spot on the ballot by the Nominating Committee nonetheless. Smith said that the Alumni Association is plagued by issues similar to those of the Board of Trustees.

“A very small, insular group appears to control the broader organization through control of committee chair appointments and control of the election process, even to the extreme of violating the bylaws of the PSAA,” Smith said.

When the ballot was released in early February, a group of seven alumni were excluded because of factors ranging from lack of leadership experience to lack of service within the organization, Williams said. Deborah Beidel, a council member, raised concerns over those exclusions at the time.

“Our bylaws say that any alumni members of the association may run for council, and the nominating committee will consider things like diversity and geographic location,” Beidel said. “Nowhere in the bylaws does it say that you have to have service with the association or have been in some kind of leadership position.”

In a letter sent to Smith on Monday, Williams informed him that he will be added to the ballot along with Morgan. Williams did not concede that any bylaws were violated, instead saying that it’s not in the interests of the Alumni Association to engage in a legal battle over council nominations.

“We firmly believe that the process has been, and continues to be, consistent with the Association’s bylaws and our past practice which give great discretion to the Nominating Committee in the nomination process,” Williams said. “That having been said, it is not in the interests of the Association or its Members to engage in a legal battle over the petition process.”

Williams said that the Alumni Association is considering amendments to its bylaws that will clarify the Nominating Committee’s power to review and approve all potential candidates for council.


The PSAA Council election will begin on May 12 and run through May 31, with all voting taking place online.

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About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.

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