Divided Penn State trustees vote to add 6 spots to 30 voting members of governing board

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STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania — Penn State trustees decided Friday to add six voting members to the 30-person board after alumni-elected members failed to prevent the changes.

The board voted 16-9 to add a student, a faculty member and the immediate past president of the alumni association, along with three spots that the trustees themselves will pick as a way to find new members with special expertise or experience.

Supporters said they were responding to requests by different groups for representation, and that despite the larger size, the board would remain more or less in line with similar institutions.

"This proposal adds valuable constituencies to this board," said Chairman Keith Masser. "It adds three at-large seats that allows this board to be more effective by filling experience gaps, and it spreads the power so that no two constituency groups can determine an outcome."

But alumni-elected trustee Anthony Lubrano, who voted against the proposal, said the expansion will not improve the school's governance.

"What we've done here is try to appease everyone," Lubrano said.

Trustee Al Lord, elected by alumni, said he was concerned about the balance of power on the board.

"Each time we add a director or trustee, you neutralize one of the trustees on the other side," Lord said. "Were this board totally simpatico, I think we would all be indifferent."

Those divisions were reflected in several votes, and new trustee Walter Rakowich said they troubled him.

"The numbers (of trustees) don't matter, what matters is trust, and we don't have trust on the board," Rakowich said. "And that's what we need to start working on."

The trustees agreed to a request by Gov.-elect Tom Wolf to delay considering a proposal to convert three Cabinet secretaries on the board into non-voting members until after he is inaugurated in January. The board currently includes as voting members the state secretaries of Education, Agriculture and Conservation and Natural Resources.

The board also voted to wait until January to consider, in executive session, a proposal by Lubrano that the university become a plaintiff, with Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and Treasurer Rob McCord, in a state lawsuit against the NCAA over the legality of the 2012 consent decree the school agreed to in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.

Trustee Kathleen Casey, who moved to delay that issue, said she was concerned about "really quite significant" legal issues that were outlined earlier in the day in a closed-door meeting.

"This is a legal question," said Trustee Keith Eckel. "I can't make judgments based on what I read in the newspapers. I've got to do it on fact. I have to have legal counsel advise me or I can't meet my fiduciary duties."

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