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Lubrano: BOT Committee to Consider Reducing Number of Alumni-Elected Trustees

by on August 14, 2014 5:45 PM

Members of the Penn State Board of Trustees will continue an ongoing conversation about reforms to the board's structure at a special meeting on Friday, including a possible discussion on reducing the number of alumni-elected trustees.

The governance and long-range planning committee, led by chairman Keith Eckel, will meet at the Penn Stater Conference Hotel, Room 204 at 8:30 a.m.. Committee member Anthony Lubrano says this will be the first meeting in which board members will discuss formal reform proposals.

He expects the committee to consider the possibility of reducing the number of alumni-elected trustees from nine to six, which was discussed at previous meetings but never formally proposed. Lubrano, himself elected by alumni, says this is evidence of a "chasm" between different factions of the board.

"I think it would a terrible move on the part of the board," Lubrano says. "It would lead to huge backlash from alumni, create a public relations disaster and accelerate legislative efforts to reform the board."

Eckel, a trustee elected by Pennsylvania agricultural societies, could not be reached for comment.

The board has been subject to criticism since the Sandusky scandal broke, resulting in external pressure and suggestions for reform, including two different pieces of legislation in Harrisburg.

State Rep. Scott Conklin (D – Centre County) proposed a bill in 2013 that would have restructured the board and greatly reduced the number of trustees. House Bill 310 has seen no progress since being referred to the education subcommittee last year.

State Sen. John Yudichak (D – Carbon and Luzerne Counties) also proposed a similar, though less dramatic, bill that would reduce the board’s number of voting members from 30 to 23. The State Government subcommittee unanimously passed the bill, Senate Bill 1240, back in June, though it’s seen little action since then.

Since the scandal broke, the board has already undergone some changes – including implementing term limits for board members, removing the voting power of the Pennsylvania governor and university president and restructuring the makeup of the various committees.

Knowing that more changes are likely inevitable, the board also brought an outside consultant on board to help guide them through any potential changes in the future. Holly Gregory, of New York-based law firm Sidley Austin LLP, was hired by the board last November to facilitate conversation among members of the governance and long-range planning committee.

Since then, she has stressed the need for trustees to place Penn State’s interests above their own, as well as emphasizing the importance of debate and differing opinions among board members.

Debate and divided opinions have come to characterize the board of late, as evidenced at a special meeting earlier this week to discuss the board’s position on any possible settlement in the various ongoing lawsuits related to Penn State, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Sandusky scandal.

The board ultimately passed a resolution that reaffirms its commitment to complying with the NCAA’s sanctions, but only after a blistering debate that showcased the divided opinion between alumni-elected trustees and the rest of the board.

Holly Gregory could not be reached for comment on Friday’s agenda.

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Michael Garrett is a freelance reporter who covers a wide range of assignments for StateCollege.com.
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