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Penn State Board of Trustees to Elect New Leadership on Heels of More Discussion on Structural Changes

by on January 18, 2013 9:37 AM

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It's election day for the Penn State Board of Trustees, and if discussions on structural changes stay on course, several governance revisions under the new regime may be presented to the full board for a vote as early as May.

Vice chairman Keith Masser is expected to take over for chairwoman Karen Peetz when the trustees gather for their regularly scheduled voting meeting Friday afternoon at the Penn Stater Conference Center and Hotel, and board member Stephanie Deviney is a favorite for vice chairwoman. Nominations can still be presented before the full board, as well.

"I don't want to state the obvious, but we're looking for a new president," Masser said of his approach to the position, "and there's a lot going on in that process."

Whoever sits atop the board, the person will be taking over at a time when many recommendations from the Freeh Report, former Auditor General Jack Wagner, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and more will be talked about and put into action.

Discussion on several key issues continued Thursday in the governance committee meeting, where board members appeared to favor revoking the voting privileges of the university president and Pennsylvania governor.

Trustee Carl Shaffer said it's time for a change on that front, calling it "bad practice" for the president to have voting power. Student representative Katelyn Mullen said that move would help distinguish any oversight questions involving the board and the administration.

When discussing removing the governor's vote, none of the dozen or so members of the committee disagreed with that proposal but would likely meet with the governor to take his temperature on the issue.

The committee also discussed removing the title of board secretary from the university president but wanted to further define his/her role. Jennifer Branstetter, the governor's non-voting representative, questioned whether the secretary duties should fall to the vice chair.

There was also discussion on having university employees wait five years before becoming a candidate for board membership. On the other hand, the committee is sensitive to the appearance of impropriety when allowing trustees to float into university employment, a la acting athletic director Dave Joyner. Of course, that move came on the heels of a major crisis, one that prompted a slew of internal and external reviews of the university's governance and the reason why the committee was tucked in a corner conference room at the Penn Stater.

"People are sensitive about some of the language in different documentation as far as who is really running the university," said committee chair James Broadhurst. "There are some appearances in some of the documents where we need to make some changes."

Penn State Public Broadcasting will record a live stream of the meeting, scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. with opening remarks from president Rodney Erickson. That is available for viewing at the top of this post.

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Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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