Student Leaders Address Issues Within Board Of Trustees
Penn State’s Board of Trustees met Friday afternoon at the Penn Stater and heard farewell addresses from each of the university’s three student government presidents, who challenged the Board of Trustees to look at issues across the commonwealth and internally on the Board. This is the student leaders’ last meeting with the Board, as their respective terms all end before the next Board of Trustees meeting in May.
Commonwealth Council of Student Governments President Zachary Taylor addressed the Board first, discussing the issue of affordability at Penn State, especially for students around the Commonwealth. Taylor also spoke on this topic to open this year’s State of State conference earlier this month.
“We need to look at creative ways that shift with the times,” Taylor said. “We cannot have higher education cost that moved forward 50 years and financial aid and package that is have not moved forward for decades. We need to think creatively and have a different way of approaching the way we divvy out student aid.”
Graduate and Professional Student Association President Matt Krott spoke of his nine years on campus earning thee degrees, and the infighting the Board has experienced in that time and since the firing of former Penn State president Graham Spanier and football coach Joe Paterno.
He emphasized that every trustee cares about Penn State, and that 100,000 students are counting on the Board to ensure the quality of the Penn State experience.
“But when I hear things like I heard just yesterday in a public committee meeting, where a trustee talked about their obligations to their constituencies which put them on this board as if it was more important than their obligation to Penn State students, or to even this university as a whole, to be honest I’m horrified at how the mission of being a trustee has been twisted,” Krott said. This discussion occurred in yesterday’s Committee on Governance and Long-Range Planning meeting.
“The strange thing is I’m frustrated with this board today for the same reason I was frustrated with my peers over six years ago as they rioted downtown,” Krott said. “The world is still watching us. We are still projecting the wrong messages.”
Krott challenged trustees to remember why they’re here — to ensure that 100,000 students are able to have the same transformative Penn State careers he’s experienced during his time here.
Finally, University Park Undergraduate Association President Katie Jordan addressed the Board about its lack of diversity compared to the student body it represents.
“Thank you for allowing the student voice to be heard,” Jordan began. “The concept of shared governance is a important one. We are lucky enough to have had a seat at the table through so many discussions that impact the lives of our students, the main constituency of this university. We are fortunate to have receptive administrators dedicated to solving pressing issues of our time.”
She asked the Board to think of one line of Penn State’s alma mater: Thou didst mold us, Dear Old State. “What has molded you? What at Penn State molded you to sit here making decisions that will impact the fate of our great institution? I can bet that there is a spark inside you that cares about the 163 years of transformational experiences this university has given so many others.”
“We have expanded protection for students through the responsible action protocol, showed our legislators why Penn State is worth funding, highlighted international student voices who may not always be heard, and we have heard stories from students of underrepresented communities, as they look around the room of people who often look nothing like them and trust them to make decision that is will be best for them,” Jordan said. “I think of how Penn State has molded them. Maybe their experiences aren’t as pleasant as mine. Maybe what molded them is not the same. But I’m convinced we have a common thread. How can we as a collective community strive to better the lives of each Penn Stater? We must make conscious efforts to continue to hear the diverse voice of students at Penn State. We must increase the diversity of this board, to represent the ideals of the Commonwealth.”
Jordan admitted she has sometimes failed in her own goals to hear the voices of all Penn State students, “but I know we can do better and we can do so together.”
“It’s a new generation of Penn Staters across the Commonwealth, a generation dedicated to tackling complex problems, of shifting demographics, racial tensions, and rising costs of education,” she said. “These Penn Staters want their university to thrive and be better than ever. Please join them in making their dreams a reality.”