Bagwell blasts plan to reappoint Wall Street trustees

Published January 11, 2012

Madison, Wis. – Almost every member of an elite group of Penn State trustees would retain their positions this year under a plan being floated by the board’s president, according to a secret meeting agenda released today.

Membership on the trustees’ so-called “Executive Committee” would grow to 10 under President Steve Garban’s plan, and be comprised mostly of Wall Street financial executives and heads of billion-dollar corporations, according to the board’s agenda for its next meeting.

“This revelation is just another reason why the board leadership can’t be trusted,” said Ryan Bagwell, a trustee candidate who uncovered the document. “With hundreds of thousands of Penn State alumni demanding an end to cronyism, this board has chosen to maintain the status quo at all costs.”

The Executive Committee is charged with handling “all necessary business as may arise in the intervals between meetings of the Board,” according to trustee bylaws.

But it has gained notoriety in recent weeks after two former trustees complained in newspaper reports it is usually used to approve university initiatives without consulting the full 32-member board.

Bagwell, a 2002 graduate who is running for a board seat this year, obtained the agenda before it was made public. Agendas for trustee meetings are normally kept secret until the day of the meeting.

The proposal was made by the board’s Governance Advisory Committee, a group that was created in May last year to develop initiatives that “orient, educate, organize, motivate, and assess the performance of trustees.” It also proposes members for the elite Executive Committee.

Under the proposal, board President Steve Garban and Vice President John Surma would be re-appointed to the Executive Committee, along with Kenneth C. Frazier, Linda B. Strumpf and Edward R. Hintz Jr. All five are directors of Wall Street mutual funds or large corporations.

Ira Lupert, a corporate executive who played a key role in hiring Penn State’s football coach, would gain a seat on the committee, along with agriculture activist Betsy E. Huber. Farmer Keith E. Masser and City of Philadelphia executive Michael F. DiBernardinis would be reappointed.

Though Garban is among those slated for reappointment, he also hand-picked the group that recommended his executive committee membership.

Penn State President Rodney Erickson and the next board chairman will get seats on the board by default. Trustees are scheduled to elect a new chairman at their next meeting.

“This shows President Garban and his Wall Street cronies are willing to hold everyone accountable but themselves,” Bagwell said. “If the board allows them to be re-appointed to this powerful group, the same insular thinking that precipitated last year’s tragic events will continue to harm Penn State.”

“Only new leadership with new perspectives will end their culture of cronyism,” Bagwell said. “I urge the current board members to vote no on their reappointment. It’s the only move that will serve Penn State’s best interest.”

The board is also scheduled to vote on raising the cost of campus housing housing for the 2012-2013 school year, as well as the price of student meal plans.

Under administrators’ plans, the price of a standard two-person dorm room would rise to $2,455, a $70 increase, according to the agenda.

And the mid-tier meal plan would cost $2,040, $55 more than this school year.

The trustees are scheduled to meet at 10:15 a.m. Jan. 20 on Penn State’s University Park campus.