Higher Education
5:18 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

PSU President Mum on Board Reforms

The new president of Penn State is staying mum on proposed reforms to the school’s Board of Trustees.

Legislation to whittle down the current board from 30 to 23 voting members cleared a state Senate committee in June, but Eric Barron, named president in February, refused to offer his own opinion of such a move.

“Wise people don’t try to choose their bosses,” Barron told an the audience of reporters, officials, and lobbyists at the Pennsylvania Press Club lunch in Harrisburg on Monday. “Instead, you have your bosses — the trustees — that choose you. So to weigh in on, ‘this is what I think you should do,’ I think presents certain challenges.”

Penn State has been criticized for the size and makeup of its board of trustees, especially as it affected the handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case. Academic governance experts say boards smaller than Penn State’s current roster of 30 voting members are more effective.

Barron is a former president of Florida State University and, before that, was a dean at Penn State. He said he can see the advantages to having students and faculty on the board, as well as a general “diversity of viewpoints.”

“But I wouldn’t tell my board, ‘this is the board structure that I think will serve me well,’” Barron said.

Legislation to shed Penn State trustees by attrition awaits a vote in the state Senate. Lawmakers have said for the past year they’ll try to wait for the Board of Trustees to pursue internal reforms.