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Trustees Discuss Auditor General's Report, Presidential Search; Legal Talks Private

by on November 15, 2012 4:05 PM

The Penn State Board of Trustees became aware of Pa. Auditor General Jack Wagner's report, which called for reform at Penn State starting with the board, only 15 minutes before he went live with it on Wednesday. 

Opinions differed at a Committee on Governance and Long-Range Planning meeting regarding how to address the recommendations made by Wagner, who released a 124-page report on Wednesday that said the board should be reduced from 32 to 21 voting members and that the university president should be removed as a voting member because of conflicts of interest.

Trustee Jim Broadhurst said three members of the board were included in a phone call with Wagner on Wednesday, who said he was going to highlight four major points in his report:

  • The removal of the university president as a trustee, including his or her sitting on any other committees.
  • The governor should become an ex-oficio member and a non-voting member of the board.
  • That a quorum should require a majority of the board, not 13 members, to pass.
  • He felt that the university was still opposing inclusion under 'Right-to-Know' legislation.

Wagner offered to meet with the board, Board Chairwoman Karen Peetz said. The board also awaits recommendations on governance from the Penn State Faculty Senate.

Peetz, however, said that eventually, there needs to be an end to the recommendations the board absorbs from outside groups, referencing the Freeh report.

"It would be nice to stop the music at some point and say, OK, we've considered all of this," Peetz said.

Trustee Carl Shaffer said he doesn't believe the recommendations made by the Auditor General doesn't apply to Penn State because it is a unique university and operates differently than the schools to which Wagner compared Penn State. He cited the location and size of the university as two factors.

"I read through some of the auditor general's report, and it doesn't really apply to us," Shaffer said.

Trustee Joel Myers said while the board doesn't have to accept every single recommendation made to them, it's important to hear each one moving forward.

"This is a period that is going to define Penn State's future. All of these things are worthy," Myers said.

Peetz said it's important not to "mix them together" when looking at recommendations.

The committee was also charged with addressing the ongoing search for the next Penn State president. Members discussed hiring a firm to serve as an executive search committee. Broadhurst said other universities, such as the University of Florida, Carnegie Mellon University and Louisiana State University.

Following the regular board meeting at the Nittany Lion Inn on Friday, the board will reach out, through the appropriate channels, to students and faculty to assemble the 16-person search and screen committee for the next president.

The committee will include eight board members, two deans and chancellors, two students – one graduate student and one undergraduate student – two individuals from the president's executive staff, the president of the Penn State Alumni Association and one staff member.

Peetz said she wants to see the process move along "fairly quickly," with a target date of November 2013 to introduce a candidate to the board.

"If we found a candidate earlier, [Penn State President Rodney Erickson] is perfectly fine with that," Peetz said.

Erickon's contract expires in 2014.

Nearly all of the committee meetings were open to the public and the media on Thursday – Finance, Business and Capital Planning at 10 a.m., Governance and Long-Range Planning and Academic Affairs at 12:30 p.m. and Outreach Development and Community Relations at 2 p.m. – until 3 p.m., when the Committee on Legal and Compliance was set to meet. It was announced as a private meeting at that time. 

Earlier, Erickson and the rest of the Committee on Finance, Business and Capital Planning met and discussed items that will be brought to the entire board's attention at the meeting on Friday. Topics included renovations around campus, such as Rec Hall and Old Main. 

The West Campus Steam Plant was discussed, and trustees talked about making the transition away from burning coal to burning something less expensive. 

The Board of Trustees will convene for its regular, full board meeting at 1:30 p.m. at the Penn Stater on Friday, where a public comment hour will be held for the second time. 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Friday's meeting location.



Laura Nichols is a StateCollege.com news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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