State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Proposed reforms target state-related universities on transparency, not board size

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Dec 16, 2012 11:56 PM

Democratic state Representative Scott Conklin of Centre County has announced his plan to propose legislation to reform governance at Pennsylvania’s state-supported universities.

The legislation will be based on recommendations handed down by the state’s Auditor General, Jack Wagner, whose office issued a report on the problems with Penn State’s governance structure in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

But Penn State isn’t the only focus of the four-piece legislative package. Two of Conklin’s yet-to-be-introduced measures would require Penn State, Pitt, Temple, and Lincoln universities to comply with the state’s Ethics Act, requiring trustees at all four universities to disclose any financial conflicts of interest. The legislation would also subject the universities to the state’s open records law, with some exceptions.

“Those will be put to all four state-relateds,” said Conklin. “So they will have to be under the same type of umbrella that our fourteen state-owned universities are under.”

But one of the proposals to shrink the 32-member board of trustees at PSU could apply just as well to all of Pennsylvania’s state-related universities, which also have larger boards than several academics associations recommend. The unusually large size of the boards at Pitt, Temple, and Lincoln received a passing mention from Wagner during a press conference for the report’s release. Each of the schools have boards with between 39 and 40 members.

Conklin said it’s Penn State’s particular board structure, not its size, that he wants to address.

“The Auditor General’s report did not address the size of the other universities,” said Conklin. “His concern with the other state-relateds was transparency. That we are addressing.”

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