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Low support in state House for PSU BOT changes

Reported By: Gary Sinderson
Written By: Marc Stempka

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- A constant talking point surrounding Penn State University is the cries, and in some cases demands, for change in the makeup of the school's board of trustees. Within the past year two state legislators have proposed bills to bring change, but in at least one house of the General Assembly, the support may not be there.

The two bills proposed last year by state senators called for the board of trustees to be downsized, with the hopes of a smaller board being more engaged in operations, but in the state House, some arent as interested.

Former state Sen. Robert Jubelirer said the legislation is at least a starting point.

"It's an important beginning," Jubelirer said. "It changes the composition of the board of trustees. It reduces it from 30 people to 23 voting members. It provides the way it's done, it does it in a fair way."

At least 40 state senators have signed on as a co-sponsor for the reform measure, but in the state House, previous trustee reform proposals have stalled, with some leaders saying change needs to come from within.

"Penn State's charter has change over the years and our role in that has diminished significantly," Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, of Centre County, said. "While we have, I believe five or six appointees to that board, most legislators I think believe that is a decision that needs to be done by the trustees and their alumni."

Trustees have said they have made some internal changes in recent years, but the size of the board remains a point of debate.

"I don't think everybody is going to be totally happy," Benninghoff said. "I think you could cut the board in half and somebody's going to want to cut it again. Some want more student appointees, it's some of those things at the end of the day the university has to run and they [have] to make some decisions."

The trustees have hired a consultant to talk about reform and governance issues.

Benninghoff said he continues to sponsor separate legislation that would reform the commonwealth's right to know laws to include Penn State and other state schools. A hearing on that is expected later this year.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times