In June, Pennsylvania Attorney General Eugene DePasquale delivered a scathing report after an audit of Penn State.
It started with the idea that “more changes are needed” following up on governance work that the university had done after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. It progressed to critiques of things like tuition and the number of acceptances of out-of-state students.
Penn State issued a response at the time, but on Thursday, the board of trustees’ governance and long-range planning committee went over the issues raised.
The one that jumped out for the board was the number of trustees.
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DePasquale’s report noted the large size of the board. When former auditor general Jack Wagner delivered a prior critique, he recommended a reduction. Instead, after months of analysis and debate and a last minute motion change, the board increased to 36 members.
That’s something that most are reluctant to change.
“There’s a lot of work being done by a lot of people...I don’t know how we’d do it with less,” said Chairman Mark Dambly. “I, for one, think we need all hands on deck.”
President Eric Barron went from working with 13 trustees at Florida State to almost three times as many at Penn State.
“The breadth and depth of what is being looked at by this board is no contest,” he said.
Alumni-elected trustee Barbara Doran was one of those who argued for a reduction in 2014. She said that while many best practices recommend smaller boards, that is less her concern than implementation.
“Size can be irrelevant,” she said. “Let’s look at the process.”
The auditor general also recommended shorter term limits. The current maximum is 12 years, but Penn State counsel Frank Guadagnino said that the electoral nature of the process usually makes the length of time served much less, closer to two three-year terms.
Other points, such as posting individual trustees expenses, support of legislative amendments that would open the university to more Right to Know requests and the state ethics act were mentioned but with little discussion.
When it was proposed that the committee send its responses to the auditor general, committee Chairman Don Han declined, saying that DePasquale’s report “merited a discussion at governance (committee),” but that he believed all that was necessary was a reflection of the discussion in the minutes.