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Senate Committee Approves Legislation to Reform Penn State Board of Trustees

by on June 10, 2014 3:05 PM

Without opposition, a state senate committee approved a bill Tuesday that would reorganize Penn State University's Board of Trustees.

At the same time, Penn State hopes the General Assembly will await further action until the board finishes its committee process to develop further plans for reform.

The senate's State Government Committee voted 11-to-0 for Senate Bill 1240, the Penn State University Board of Trustees Reorganization Act, which would reduce the board of trustees from 30 to 23 voting members.

State Sen. John Yudichak, a Penn State graduate who represents Luzerne and Carbon counties, drafted the bill.

"Today's vote was culmination of months of thoughtful deliberation on governance reform at Penn State and helps move the university forward in creating a more effective, more engaged Board of Trustees," Yudichak said in a prepared statement.

State Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre County, is a co-sponsor of the bill.

The bill would reduce the board from 30 voting members to 23 as of Jan. 1 with eight elected by alumni, five appointed by the governor and approved by the senate, five representing the agriculture industry, and five representing business and industry.

Additionally, the bill removes the governor, president of the university and secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources from the board as of Jan. 1 and gives the General Assembly sole authority to determine the composition of the board.

The legislation would also make agriculture and education secretaries non-voting members and prohibit all state row officers, such as treasurer or auditor general, from serving on the board.

The bill also requires the establishment of a five-member selection committee to review and recommend to the full board appointments to the board.

Under the bill, a term for elected board members would last three years. Board members serving when the act goes into effect may finish the term for which they were appointed or elected.

Yudichak introduced the legislation earlier this year. Proponents say the changes will ensure the board is "accountable and transparent."

Penn State Spokesperson Lisa Powers noted that over the past two years the board has adopted several changes to its structure in response to internal and external reviews, including that of Auditor General Jack Wagner. For example, implementing 12 year term limits for board representatives; making the governor and university president non-voting members; restructuring committees, which included adding faculty and student members; and adding a public comment portion to its board meetings.

At the same time, the board's Governance Committee has been holding meetings for several months to develop a plan for additional reform. 

"Further changes to the make-up of the board are currently under consideration by the Governance Committee, which is reviewing data and recommendations from multiple sources," Powers says. "We hope that the legislature will continue its discussions with the board and wait to see the recommendations of the Governance Committee, before further consideration of this legislation."

The legislation now moves to the full senate for consideration.

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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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