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Penn State Board of Trustees Meetings Underway, Election Results Expected Friday

by on May 08, 2014 6:50 AM

A consultant hired to help the Penn State Board of Trustees decide whether to make changes in the board's structure says there are no clear choices.

The governance and long-range planning committee, led by chair Keith Eckel, met late Wednesday afternoon at the Penn Stater Conference Center. The committee is considering proposed changes to the board's size and whether the board should implement board member qualifications.

"The end result of our efforts should be a thoughtful and appropriate analysis to ensure that any recommendations are first and foremost with the intent of enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the board," Eckel says. "The key question we need to ask ourselves as we consider all suggestion is – 'is this best for the governance of Penn State University."

The board hired Holly Gregory of Sidley Austin LLP, a law firm based in New York City, to facilitate the process.

Gregory says she and her staff conducted more than 40 interviews and reviewed a variety of proposals, including some from the faculty senate and state auditor general. Staff members also recently met with the state legislative caucuses in Harrisburg to discuss the issue.

Gregory says what became "very obvious" from the efforts is that a clear solution has not emerged, nor does there appear to be clear consensus of the problems the committee is attempting to solve.

The committee separated into smaller groups Wednesday for new discussions concerning their vision for the future of the board. Following the sessions, the groups were to report the results back to Gregory for her to analyze.

The committee is expected to hold another round of talks before the board's meeting in July.

Gregory and her staff also presented an overview of a comparison between Penn State and 20 other universities' boards, including 15 public schools and five private schools. The comparison included universities in Pennsylvania, like the University of Pittsburgh and Temple University.

Gregory noted the comparison did not create a clear path for Penn State as the structure of boards varied significantly. Additionally, committee member Anthony Lubrano noted that some of the data used was inaccurate, specifically how many Penn State board members were also alumni. The issue could call into question at least some of the comparisons presented. Gregory noted that staff used information available in the public domain to compile data and make comparisons.

Committee meetings will continue on Thursday.

Voting for three alumni seats on the board, which opened April 10, concludes Thursday. Winners will be announced Friday at the full board meeting.

The three available seats are currently held by board members Jesse Arnelle, Marianne Alexander and Joel Myers. Myers is the only candidate seeking another term.

The 32-member board includes five trustees who serve in an ex officio capacity – university president, Pennsylvania governor, and state secretaries of agriculture, education and conservation and natural resources.

The alumni elect nine members. The governor appoints six members. Organized agriculture societies elect six members. The board elects six members from business and industry sectors.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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