Penn State BoT: September Meeting Recap
The Board of Trustees’ September meeting was business as usual, taking just more than an hour and a half and generally absent of questions and discussion. Nothing was changed on the agenda at the beginning of the meeting, and, for the most part, the meeting went along swimmingly.
President Barron’s report focused on the new capital campaign, which will be launched on July 1, 2016, and assuring that the university focuses on short term planning instead of creating plans that look 10 years into the future. Some the topics Barron touched on as part of this “For the Future” campaign include global engagement, establishing Penn State as a “global destination,” focusing on personalized and population heath, water, energy, and food security, Invent Penn State, and improving access to and affordability of the university.
Following Provost Nick Jones’s report, which focused on “Living Our Land-Grant Mission in the 21st Century,” and a special report from new Eberly College of Science Dean, Doug Cavener, who was appointed as dean during the Board’s July meeting, the committees gave their reports. M. Abraham Harpster, chair of the academic affairs and student life committee, noted that Penn State received a record total of new applications (more than 130,000) and that some 4,000-plus students attended the “Spend A Summer Day” programs this summer.
During the committee on finance and capital planning’s report, the Board unanimously approved four resolutions that were discussed during the committee’s meeting on Thursday: expanding funds for the Morgan academic support center (MAC) for student athletes, expanding funds fpr the student center at Penn State York, approval of a new learning management system (Canvas), and transferring control of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center to Penn State Health. All four were passed without discussion.
It was during the committee on governance and long-range planning’s report where things got a little interesting. Chair of the committee, Keith Eckel, discussed how the committee would like to review each committee’s operating guidelines as well as set some time aside during the January meeting for a full board assessment. When it came time to vote on the status of the new emeritus members of the board, the meeting saw some of its most dense discussion.
In the July meeting, the Board changed the criteria for an emeritus member — instead of needing 12 years of service to the university, they only needed to have six under their belt. Because of this change, a large number of the 20 candidates were considered for emeritus status, and after whittling down the field, three were put up to a board vote by a committee vote of 6-1: Marianne Alexander, Carl Schaffer, and Linda Strumpf. Before the vote, however, Trustee Anthony Lubrano noted some grievances not on the trustees up for emeritus status, but on the class of an emeritus board member as a whole.
“I want to point out that the irony is not lost on the Penn State community that it’s (been) almost four years since Joe Paterno was fired, and yet, we have not honored him, but today we look to recognize three people for emeritus service,” Lubrano said.
Lubrano commented that, while he had no problem with the work of Alexander, Schaffer, and Strumpf, he questioned why someone who “gave [the university] 61 years has not been honored,” but the three up for vote were getting the opportunity. Eckel assured the Board that the committee felt strongly regarding the three nominees and the service they have provided, and the committee worked diligently to assure that the guidelines were followed in making the recommendation.
The vote was conducted via roll call by request, and the Board voted primarily yes, with five “no’s” and two abstentions, meaning Alexander, Schaffer, and Strumpf received the honor of emeritus status.
Following a few more committee reports and a unanimous election of the Directors of the Corporation for the upcoming year, the meeting was adjourned at 3:11 p.m. The full Board will meet again on November 19 and 20 at University Park.