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Senator Wants PSU Board of Trustees Reduced by Seven Members

by on November 20, 2013 11:41 AM

Another attempt to reform the Penn State Board of Trustees is now in the works, this time in legislation proposed by state Sen. John Yudichak.

The new legislation was introduced Wednesday morning. If passed, the proposed bill would reduce the number of board members from 30 to 23. It would also cut the number of board members elected by the alumni from the current nine to eight, and would make the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Agriculture non-voting members.

The legislation also proposes to have five governor appointments and five members elected by the agriculture industry. Five business and industry members would be appointed by a special trustee selection committee. There are currently six trustees representing each of those groups.

Yudichak (D), who represents Luzerne, Carbon and Monroe counties, says that the public confidence in the board is eroded, and that reducing the board's size will be better for the university.

"The Board of Trustees ... is out of step with other major public research universities across country," Yudichak says. "Research suggests large boards tend to have members less involved in important issues."

Many boards at universities similar to Penn State have only 11 to 16 trustees, Yudichak says. Yudichak says the unique constituencies on the board create a challenge as far a shrinking the board goes, but that this legislation is a healthy start to the conversation.

State Sen. Jake Corman (R), who represents Centre County, also threw his support behind the legislation, saying it is in the best interest of Penn State -- calling it a fair proposal.

"We invite the board of trustees of Penn State to engage in this process," Corman says of board reform. "I think it's important we are in a partnership in this issue."

The legislation does not include any mention of term limits for trustees.

"I don't think it's the place of general assembly to micromanage Penn State," Yudichak says. "We're not trying to target any individual constituency."

Under the legislation, the Penn State President would not be on the board at all, even as a voting member.

The structure of the board has increasingly come under fire in the past year. The university faculty senate has asked to become more involved in the board's decision making. The board itself has also hired a consultant to help with governance concerns, such as board size and term limits.

Pennsylvania's former Auditor General Jack Wagner also issued a report outlining a series of governance recommendations. Some of these recommendations include removing the university president as a board member, making the state governor a non-voting member and shrinking the board to 21 members.

The legislation will most likely not be taken up in the few weeks lawmakers are still in session for the year.

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Adam Lidgett is a freelance reporter who has covered news and feature stories in State College and Centre County.
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