Higher Education
3:15 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

State Senators Unveil Legislation to Reform Penn State Board

The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees would be decreased from 30 voting members to 23 under legislation unveiled by state Sens. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne County) and John Corman (R-Centre County).

Yudichak said, in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the school is facing its greatest challenge.

“The Penn State community is divided as it has never been before," Yudichak said. "Commonwealth taxpayers are concerned with the growing cost to the university, which now stands at over $172 million, and perhaps most damaging, public confidence in the current governance structure of the Board of Trustees to effectuate meaningful change and reform has been completely eroded.”

Yudichak said Penn State’s board is “out of step” with other public research universities. He cited that most Big 10 schools have boards that average 10 voting members, while the average land-grant university has 16.

Yudichak said research has shown that smaller boards are more engaged and efficient.  

Currently, Penn State’s board is made up of the state secretaries of Education, Agriculture, and DCNR, six governor appointees, nine elected alumni, six representatives of “agricultural societies and associations” and six business and industry representatives. The governor and president of the university are non-voting members.

The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees Reorganization Act would reduce the number of business, agriculture and governor members to five each, and the university alumni would elect eight members. The secretaries of Education and Agriculture would become non-voting members and the governor, the lieutenant governor, all of the state row officers, the university president, and the Secretary of DCNR would be removed from the board.

It would also reform the Trustee Selection Committee to include 5 members, the Chairman of the Board and an elected trustee from each constituency (agriculture, alumni, etc.).

Last November, then-Auditor General Jack Wagner released a report calling on the General Assembly and Board of Trustees to decrease the size of the board, which hasn’t changed since 1951.

Corman said he’s hoping the board’s Governance Committee will makes these changes internally.

“I’ve made it no secret in the past that I’m not crazy about doing this legislatively," Corman said. "We haven’t talked to our friends in the House and we don’t know where they might go. But we reserve the ability to do that.”

Both Yudichak and Corman are Penn State alumni.

Corman said they’re trying to invite the Board of Trustees to engage legislators in the process. He hopes that the Governance Committee’s recent decision to hire a consultant is a step in the right direction.

“We’re not trying to do a hostile takeover of the board here. What we’re trying to do is work with the board.” 

Penn State was chartered by the state’s General Assembly in 1855. In 1863, the legislature named it Pennsylvania’s sole land grant university.