At their July 2020 meetings, the leadership of the PSU Board of Trustees is moving forward with plans that will lead to the elimination of the last vestige of Board accountability – eliminating the right of Penn State Alumni to openly elect 9 members to the Board.
These are the only positions – on the 38 member Board – that are selected through a democratic process of the University’s constituents.
These are the only positions – on the 38 member Board – where there is even a glimmer of hope to seat individuals who might not simply rubber-stamp the status quo desired by Board leadership.
They, the Board leadership, are engaging in this gambit under the guise of promoting “Diversity”. But their goal is anything but “Diversity” – it is the elimination of diversity.
It is the elimination of any “diversity”, by eliminating any opposition to the Board’s control group.
It is the elimination of any “diversity”, by erasing any traces of Board accountability to it’s constituents.
The actions this month are the first step in a multi-part stratagem being undertaken. If you read further in the Blog, I will explain what is going to happen next.
First, this is the text of the motion to come before the Board:
“RESOLVED, That the Board of Trustees aspires that by 2025, at least 50% of its members will be from racial, ethnic and gender underrepresented populations;
RESOLVED, That in each of the next five election/appointment cycles, the Board of Trustees shall take reasonable and proper steps intended to achieve that goal; and
RESOLVED, That such steps may include, among other things, AMENDMENTS TO THE UNIVERSITY’S GOVERNING DOCUMENTS WITH RESPECT TO ELECTION/APPOINTMENT PROCESSES, TERM LIMITS, AND OTHER MATTERS AS MAY BE NECESSARY TO ACHIEVE THE OBJECTIVES SET FORTH ABOVE.”
Before we talk more about this motion, what it really means – and what the Alumni-Elected Trustees should do – let’s make a couple of things perfectly clear:
The PSU Board is – desperately – in need of greater diversity.
- Diversity of Thought
- Diversity of Perspective
- Diversity of Background
The Board lacks these things, primarily, because the vast majority of the Board – aside from the 9 Alumni-Elected members – are self-selected by the current control group of the Board, who self-selects, obviously, people who share the same backgrounds and perspectives that they do.
[You can see a breakdown of the various group in the Footnote 1, at the bottom of the Blog]
Do we think that someone of a Blue Collar background has any opportunity to be placed on the Board by the Governor of the Commonwealth?
Do we think that a young, progressive thinker is going to be placed on the Board by a group of retiree-age Businessmen?
Do we think that any members of the control group of the Board are going to select anyone to join them – who’s ideas and concerns conflict with their desires?
Is it any wonder that the current control group votes unanimously on every measure brought before the Board?
Not only does Board leadership expect and demand it from them – but they are simply replicants of one another, who would likely do so anyway.
Why is this motion being brought forward?
What this motion does is to increase, rather than decrease, the power of the existing Board controllers to select their own cohorts.
Make no mistake, this does not “enhance diversity”….. it kills it.
And that is EXACTLY what they want to do. Anyone who has monitored the activity of the Board – and Board controllers like Ira Lubert, Mark Dambly, Keith Masser, et al – shouldn’t have to be reminded of this.
Establishing quotas that Board leadership will use to manipulate membership, based on what type of body part they are hauling around below their belly button, of by how closely their DNA resembles the DNA found in certain geographic regions of the world, does NOTHING to address the need for the types of diversity this Board so desperately lacks.
And it is not intended to.
What will happen now – and moving forward?
It is important to have followed the actions of the PSU Board, and to understand the history of its leadership. Those who have done so are well aware of the long-standing efforts, dating back many years, of Board leadership to silence any dissenting voices – voices that have come, almost exclusively, from the ranks of the Alumni-Elected Trustees.
Numerous changes to the Board’s Bylaws, the implementation of Board Reform Plan A+, etc have all been undertaken to bury any opposition to the status quo.
One must also recognize:
- The Board leadership – led by Mark Dambly – made it abundantly clear that ALL groups of Trustees will be expected to meet the parameters of “diversity”.
- The selection of the nine Alumni-Elected trustees is the only democratic process for Trustee selection, and the only one that provides any level of accountability to, and control by, the University’s constituents.
- While they say they don’t want to eliminate the election of Alumni Trustees…. “at this time”… there is no way to mandate “diversity”, or to control the demographic make up of the Trustees, while maintaining an open election. That is simply impossible.
So, if they want to maintain the premise of “elections”, while mandating and controlling demographic quotas (although we know that the true end game is eliminating opposition to their control), what will they do?
We need look no further than what happened to the Penn State Alumni Association Council, where this issue played out on a less impactful scale. Those actions were devised and implemented by the same University Legal Council that will be directing the strategies for this current effort by the Board of Trustees.
[I won’t go into the details of Alumni Council here, but for those who are unfamiliar, see Footnote 2, on Alumni Council, at the bottom of the Blog]
After cramming through the motion in July, the Board will, in due course, move to the next step – the pre-screening of “Qualified Candidates”. All with the noble intentions, of course, of enhancing the “diversity” of University Leadership.
You can make book on that. What they did with Alumni Council, and their previous actions with respect to manipulating the Bylaws, shows us their playbook.
Some things we have seen (in addition to the Alumni Council) – and, unfortunately, have not adequately opposed – over the last several years:
They – Dambly and his cohorts – have already been laying the groundwork for these actions. For years they have bemoaned the “lack of participation” of Alumni in the Alumni-Trustee election process.
Making statements belittling the rate of participation. Making those statements publicly and repeatedly in BOT meetings.
Statements like: “Only 15,000 of Penn State’s 600,000 Alumni cast votes. That’s less than 3%!”, or “There were only 3 or 4 candidates on the ballot – for 3 seats!”, etc.
While failing to address the absolute FUBAR of a system that has been implemented by the leadership group – which has turned the voting process into an obstacle course.
The Alumni -Elected trustees, unfortunately, have done precious little to counter these acts of propaganda as they have taken place – or attacking the very real issues vav the election process…. both of which would have been been simple enough to do, and that has been a failure on their part.
But, the fact remains, that any Alumni-Elected member – even if elected from among a constituency of 15,000 – is, nonetheless, authorized by (and accountable to) 15,000 MORE constituents than any of the appointed members.
One can rest assured that these memes will be trumpeted far and wide to support the leadership’s efforts to squelch true diversity and dissent.
And we should be well-prepared to expose their fallacies.
What we should do, right now?
We can’t do what we usually do – namely, after sitting like passive and scolded and poorly-prepared children (often times expressing fealty to the very people we should be opposing), leave a meeting and spit, and moan, and decry what a “Bunch of Bastards” folks like Dambly are.
We need to do what we have always needed to do. NEVER take our eyes off the ball… and NEVER forget who we are dealing with, and what their agenda is.
We need to work like devils to be prepared, intelligent, and steadfast. With this issue, and every issue of governance.
With that said, as so as not to be tied up in the failings of the past, what can we do RIGHT NOW, given the limited time available?
We can – at the very least – expect our Trustees to lay out logical, reasonable, and tight arguments against this motion…. particularly the last part, the part which reads:
“Steps may include, among other things, AMENDMENTS TO THE UNIVERSITY’S GOVERNING DOCUMENTS WITH RESPECT TO ELECTION/APPOINTMENT PROCESSES, TERM LIMITS, AND OTHER MATTERS AS MAY BE NECESSARY TO ACHIEVE THE OBJECTIVES SET FORTH ABOVE.”
Here is what we should expect to see TODAY:
In opposing this motion, the Alumni-Elected Trustees must show the knowledge and the preparedness to bring forth the key arguments, including:
- Maybe the most basic and fundamental issue is that it is NEVER congruent with responsible governance to commit to some “End Goal” (even an “aspirational” goal) without considering – up front – what steps would be taken to pursue that goal.
You don’t commit to some end game (ie: The 50% Quota) ….. without the slightest idea of what steps you might take – which might be far more detrimental than beneficial – to get there.
- You don’t commit to some end game without any idea if achieving that end game would even bring about ANY of the supposed benefits to the governance of the University…. which, of course, these “Penis/Vagina and DNA Background” quotas do not do.
The Alumni-Elected Trustees should make it abundantly clear just what type of “diversity” is lacking on the Board – and thoroughly discuss ways in which to actually further that goal.
This would open the door to discussing the real problems and dysfunctions of the Board – the abject lack of accountability, and the squelching of any dissent to the prescribed dogma of Board leadership.
- The Alumni-Elected Trustees have PLENTY of ammunition to fight these folks – like Dambly.
But you have to be WILLING to fight them.
And, if you are to maintain any hope of being successful, you have to be willing to PUT IN THE WORK to fight them intelligently and consistently.
You can’t be genuflecting to their prescient leadership – like Bob Jubelirer did – or joshing and joking with them as if you are trying to suck up to the class bully, and then expect to be effective in opposing them.
You have to be smarter than them – and beat them to the punch – and you have to, quite frankly, have balls.And, of course, at the end of the day, AFTER hammering home the issues above, they MUST vociferously vote “No” to this motion… and enter into the record just exactly why they vote “No”.
That is what we should be hoping to see – today – from our Alumni-Elected trustees.
Let us hope and pray they will do their jobs.
Current Board of Trustees Composition:
Governor Appointed Trustees:
Six Older White Men: All lawyers, businessmen and lobbyists
Business and Industry Appointed Trustees:
Five Older White Businesspeople: One a woman, three of them retired, one an ex-convict… and one lawyer.
Four white agri-business owners, and one retired engineer – with one spot currently vacant
Two political lobbyist and one businessman – selected by “Board Leadership”
A mandated Student and Faculty Member – selected by Board “Leadership”
Six ex-officio members
Nine members democratically elected by Penn State Alumni:
Six men (one black), three women.
Two retired businessmen, one lawyer, three finance professionals, one physician, one college professor, one former athletics coach.
Penn State Alumni Association Council:
The Penn State Alumni Association- for many years – had an “Alumni Council”. This Council was composed, primarily, by PSU Alumni Association members – who were elected to their seats by members of the PSU Alumni Association.
This council operated – in relative obscurity, and with little fanfare – as a means for alumni to become involved with the University, and to provide input on Alumni-related issues.
After the events of November 2011, that changed a bit. Many members of the Alumni Council expressed displeasure at the ways in which University leadership handled the “Sandusky Situation”. They called for more accountability and responsiveness from University leadership, and asked for explanations and accountability.
In response, the University leadership – under the direction and advice of University lawyers – moved to implement two modifications to Council:
1) Added a large number of “Appointed” seats to the Alumni Council. Adding a sufficient number of seats – dedicated for folks appointed by the administration – such that they comprised a wide majority of the Council
2) While maintaining the auspices of an “election”, they instituted a system by which potential candidates were vetted and selected – by the PSU AA administration – for inclusion on the ballot. And no other candidates were eligible.
If any of that sounds familiar wrt the PSU BOT situation…. it should.