State House Sound Bites

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

Plan to reduce Penn State trustees goes to full Senate

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 11, 2014 4:16 AM
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The full Senate will take up a measure to reduce the size of Penn State's Board of Trustees, thereby responding to criticisms of how the university handled the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case.

Under the proposal, Penn State's current governing body would go from 30 to 23 voting members. Changes, by attrition, would go into effect in 2016.

Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) proposed the overhaul to address concerns voiced in the aftermath of the Sandusky scandal.

"The flow of information, communication between the chief executive officer of the institution and members of the board, highlighted some of the structural deficiencies in having a board as large as 32 voting members," said Yudichak. The governor and the school's president have since ceased to be voting members, bringing the current board of voting trustees to 30.

Eliminated positions would be distributed among the trustees elected by alumni, agriculture groups, and business, as well as the trustees appointed by the governor.

Bob Jubilerer, a longtime state senator, was elected by alumni to the Penn State Board of Trustees last month. He supports the measure to shrink the board. He said board decisions to fire the school president and the school's late football coach, Joe Paterno, were possible because a small number of trustees were in control.

"It's not just about Joe Paterno, it's about the whole thing, and how things have been run by a handful of people over the years," Jubilerer said. "The public puts hundreds of millions of dollars, of taxpayer dollars, into Penn State."

Pennsylvania's three other quasi-state universities - Pitt, Temple, and Lincoln -- also have larger boards than academic governance experts advise. Yudichak said there's no legislation on deck to reduce the size of boards at those schools.

Penn State got the legislative treatment for a reason, Yudichak added. "It has unique status as our only land-grant university," he said. "So, clearly, the legislature has a role to play as it modernizes the Penn State board for the 21st century and the challenges it faces going ahead."

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