Jim Bognet Implores ‘Return To Penn State’s Legacy’ In Trustee Campaign

Hazleton, Pennsylvania native Jim Bognet has been connected to Penn State his entire life. His dad, brother, and sister all graduated from the university, along with at least 20 of his cousins.

Bognet graduated in 1997 and went on to a career in business and politics, as he ran for a seat in Congress this past fall. He is now one of six candidates running for three available alumni-elected positions on Penn State’s Board of Trustees.

To learn more about his campaign, Onward State sat down with Bognet to discuss his bid and the upcoming election.

Attending football games since he was 3 years old and making frequent visits back to Happy Valley, Bognet is certainly a lifelong Nittany Lion. He said his relationship with the university makes him a worthy candidate.

“I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say Penn State has been one of the formative institutions of my life,” Bognet said. “It really means a lot to me. That’s why it’s been such an incredible experience running for this office.”

As he now campaigns to be a trustee, he emphasizes a return to Penn State’s “proud legacy,” one that he feels the university has lost touch with recently. Bognet said that the selection of the university’s next president will be a key opportunity to honor this legacy once again.

He directly mentioned President Eric Barron and Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour as administrators he’s been frustrated with.

“What I’m looking for is leadership. I’m looking for someone that understands that Penn State has had some lapses in leadership in the past,” Bognet said. “I have not been happy with the current president or athletic director. I think we can do better. That’s gonna count on a new president.”

“I want a president of Penn State who respects Penn State’s legacy,” he continued. “When we look up at the scoreboard during a football game, it makes a lot of alumni angry that they won’t show Joe Paterno’s face on the jumbotron.”

Bognet added that he feels “the current leadership” has not shown enough respect for Penn State’s legacy and failed to honor the “people who built Penn State.”

In terms of affordability, an issue that all six candidates have discussed, Bognet feels an increased awareness of the university’s legacy is tied in directly with this issue. He noted that if a new president can help unite the alumni, the overall giving and endowment would increase.

Making Penn State a more affordable institution is at the top of Bognet’s to-do list. Along with this increased recognition of the university’s history, he laid out the steps he feels are needed to decrease tuition costs.

“Number one: I want to stop spending money on administrative expenses,” Bognet said. “I want to invest our money in the core educational mission. I believe athletics is part of that mission, but I don’t believe political agendas are a part of that.”

“Spending tons of money on new administrative deans for equity — that doesn’t make much sense for me,” Bognet added. “I think we need to really invest our money in our students.”

Bognet mentioned some of his opponents in his explanation, noting that some defend spending $48.3 million on the Lasch Building “that hasn’t been raised yet.” Fellow trustee candidate, Brandon Short, was a staunch supporter of the renovation.

Bognet added that he stands with Jay Paterno and Anthony Lubrano, the latter of whom is endorsing Bognet, in voting against the renovations.

“They say ‘Well, what else should we spend the money on?’ How about cutting student tuition,” Bognet said. “I am very worried that the current Penn State administration is going to try to push through a tuition hike this coming year…I totally stand against that. That’s why I think we need to be taking steps to cut spending so we can keep tuition stable for current students.”

Outside of the “unnecessary” administrative costs, Bognet is frustrated by the increased spending as students are still taking most classes online. This is why he’s calling for an immediate return to in-person classes. In his argument, Bognet notes that “more than half of the eligible people in this country” have been vaccinated and the steps are being taken to end the pandemic.

“It’s time for the Penn State administration to let students come back to school,” Bognet said. “I see where this is going. I can see excuses being made for why we can’t have a full stadium in the winter.”

Bognet added that seniors graduating in the coming weeks should have more than just two parents in Beaver Stadium. Along with that, Bognet noted that teachers and students who may have medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19 should be accommodated, but the “default” should be students at in-person classes.

Overall, Bognet will continue to focus on affordability and a return to Penn State’s legacy. As the university continues to recover and move on from the pandemic, he feels these two issues will remain directly intertwined.

Voting for this year’s trustee election will close at 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 6. Eligible alumni can request ballots through this online form.

Editor’s note: Bognet’s interview is the latest in multi-part series that aims to feature alumni running for open seats on the Board of Trustees. Onward State does not, and will not, endorse any candidate(s) in this election. Check back next week to read more about the six candidates vying for spots on the board this election cycle.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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