Update on the PSU BOT meetings of July 2022

Agoodnap

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Report on PSU BOT meetings of July 2022: (Written by Barry Fenchak)

Quick (sorta’) run down on the seven items brought before the Board for a vote this week. Such items are also known as “Action Items”.

Action Items (items requiring approval through Board vote). There were seven of them.
I will discuss them in the order in which they were presented at the meeting – though the one generating the most discussion/interest is the “Tuition Increase”, which was the last item on the list (Item 7)…. Feel free to jump ahead to get to that one first.
For each, I will give a brief description of the item, provide any relevant background info, and – most importantly – transcribe what I said, on the record, at the meeting, list how I voted, and why:

Item 1) Approval of the Minutes from previous meeting.

As with most boards, the first item is generally approving of the Minutes from the previous meeting (essentially, approving that the record – the minutes – of the previous meeting are accurate)
Since I was not yet a member of the Board for the previous meeting, I , appropriately, did not vote on the approval.

Items 2, 3, 4:

The next three items were lumped together as “Consent Items” – with the typical procedure being that all of them would be voted on (approved) by a single voice vote.
I, as is my right/duty as a Trustee, asked that the first of these items be separated from the others for discussion and a separate vote. That item was:

Item 2) Election of Trustee Dan Delligatti to the Executive Committee.

I asked that this item be separated, and discussed, for some specific – and, I think, important – reasons.
To the best of my recollection, I was the only Trustee to provide any questions or commentary on this item.

I voted “No” (I believe I was the only dissenting vote), after making the following public comments:

MY PUBLIC COMMENTS:
“To be clear, my concerns are completely unrelated to the qualifications or abilities of the specific nominee to the Executive Committee – but rather to my belief that the existence of the “Executive Committee” does nothing to further the mission of providing responsible governance to Penn State, and indeed creates the opportunity for governance that is incongruent with “Responsible Governance”. I cannot support the addition of any Trustees to the committee.”


A little background:
There is no reason, IMO, for the existence of the Executive Committee.
The Board Bylaws, wrt the Executive Committee, state:
(a) Purpose of the Executive Committee. The purpose of the executive committee shall be to transact all necessary business as may arise in the intervals between regular meetings of the Board of Trustees; it being understood that action by the executive committee would not be expected to be taken except in extraordinary circumstances. Notice of any action by the executive committee shall be provided to the Board of Trustees at its next regular meeting.

With today’s technology, and the fact that most off-cycle meetings of the Board take place virtually, there is no reason that the full Board cannot be solicited in the event of an unexpected – and time-critical – issue arising. In brief, the existence of the Executive Committee, IMO, only serves to provide the opportunity for actions to be taken by a small subset of the Board – without the input and approval of all members of the Board. That is the opposite of responsible governance.

As can be seen here, under the “Meetings” tab, there are no records, agenda, or minutes listed for ANY Executive Committee meetings for at least the last 10 years.
Office of the Board of Trustees | (psu.edu)
Since all “deliberative” meetings (meetings where issues are discussed, and decisions are made or recommended) should be available to the public (and, most certainly, to all members of the Board), and appropriate records and minutes published, this would indicate that no such meetings ever occurred.

That said, when I asked that this item be separated for discussion, I specifically asked the current Board Chairman (Mathew Schuyler):
“When was the last meeting of Executive Committee held, to conduct University business?”.
Chairman Schuyler responded that the Executive Committee met most recently within the last few weeks.
I wanted that question/response to be placed on record. Because, if held, where are those records?
(important to keep in mind moving forward)


I believe that my comments served to make something crystal clear:
One of two things has transpired. Either such meetings were not held (and have not been held for at least a decade), or such meetings are held – perhaps with regularity - but they are held in such a way to exclude public access (and the involvement of most of the members of the Board) and are not properly recorded.
In either case, these would be stunning examples of irresponsible governance. This is an issue moving forward.

Items 3) and 4) The other two items on the Consent Agenda passed without, to my recollection, any meaningful comments:

– The addition of Tracy Riegel (new appointed Trustee) and Steve Wagman (alumni-elected Trustee) to the Board of the Corporation for Penn State.
- The granting of “Emeriti Trustee” status to former Trustees Kathleen Casey, Dick Dandrea, Barb Doran, and Bill Oldsey. “Emeriti Trustee” status entails a non-voting position – but with certain privileges (including access to attend and engage in discussions at Board meetings). Such status is bestowed upon certain former Trustees, who meet certain requirements, at the discretion of the Board.
Further details on “Emeriti” status, and the Corporation for Penn State, can be found within the PSU BOT Bylaws on the Board website. We will talk about some of those issues in greater detail at another time.
 

Agoodnap

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PART 2:

Item 5) Approval of the spending of $128 million for construction of the new Liberal Arts building.

To the best of my recollection, I was the only Trustee who provided any questions or commentary on this item.
I voted “No” (I believe I was the only dissenting vote), after making the following public comments:

MY PUBLIC COMMENTS:
“I have two concerns with regard to the proposed project:

1) The proposed structure serves the missions of the college of Liberal Arts, a mission which may be very justifiable and appropriate – with approximately 75% of the space being allocated to Offices and Classroom space – and something less than 25% to Laboratory space for the Anthropology Department.

Such a space – based on rough estimates of similar higher education construction throughout the country – would be expected to be priced at somewhere in the neighborhood of $650 per composite square foot, as a reasonably healthy estimate.


[Some background, which I didn’t go into detail with in my public comments: Current construction estimates for such spaces on University campuses, nationwide, are ~$800 per square foot for scientific lab spaces, and ~$600 per square foot for either classroom of office space – and those are “high side” estimates… the ~$650 per square foot is a composite for a space that is 75% “Classroom and Office” space, with the remainder being “Laboratory”. And, FWIW, there are numerous examples of current cost structures in that range among our peer institutions]

MY PUBLIC COMMENTS (continued):
This estimate, $650 per square foot, times the total listed square footage of the new building, would place a total cost at approximately $93 Million. The proposed price – of $128 million (minus $5 million to raze Oswald, if that is included) – is $35 million over that target.
To put that into some relevant perspective, that single “inefficiency” is enough money to provide 1700 full tuition scholarships to Pennsylvania students. While the “mission” may be righteous, the cost – for what we are getting – needs to be refined.


[Some background and clarification, that I didn’t go into detail with in my public comment: This is not a first time or one-of wrt Penn State Capital Expense projects. The “Fenske Lab Replacement”, “Henning Building”, “Abington Dorms”, “Lasch Building Renovations”, etc are but a few examples of similarly perplexingly-priced projects in recent years]

MY PUBLIC COMMENTS (continued):
"2) Razing Oswald:

Is spending $5 million, to tear down a 50 year old office/class building the best option?
I don’t know, but if it is, it is an indictment of our Capital Spending priorities. If Oswald, after 50 years, is in such a state of disrepair that the only viable option is to spend $5 million to tear it down, we have done a very poor job of maintaining the structure over the years.

More often than not, when we put up a new building – and tear down an older building – we hear that the ”costs” will be offset by razing the old building to save on deferred maintenance costs. At the same time, we hear reports on a regular basis that we are putting off required maintenance projects due to lack of funds.

It is far, far less expensive to take care of those assets we have – rather than allowing them to go to seed, tearing them down, and building a new replacement. And we now have well over $3 Billion of long-term debt on the University’s books – a significant portion of which is due to such actions - which will be paid by who? (We know who, it will largely be future generations of Penn State students, and their parents).

That needs to stop.”


Item 6) Field Hockey Stadium Project:

This is an ~$12 Million project to construct a stadium for PSU Field Hockey (they currently play on a field that – IMO – is “playable”, but not high end). I would not approve of the expenditure of $12 million of University funds for such a project (a project that will generate, in all likelihood, near “$0” of revenue, and not further the most critical missions of the University).
BUT (“big” but), the bulk of the funding was raised through specific philanthropy – procured through years of efforts on the part of the Field Hockey staff, with the remainder being taken on by PSU ICA (to the best of my knowledge – I do plan to talk w new Athletic Director Pat Kraft, just to touch base on his thoughts on a lot of ICA items, and will bring up the field hockey issue as well).

So, I voted to approve of the project (and I believe it passed unanimously).

Listed below are my planned comments on the proposal. Because another Trustee – Anthony Lubrano – made a statement about the project that was just about identical to my thoughts, and in the interest of maintaining meeting brevity, I simply mentioned “Ditto”, and that I concurred w Lubrano’s thoughts on the matter.
But here are my thoughts and explanations:

“As opposed to many ICA projects in recent years, this project illustrates – IMO – a reasonable process.
The folks involved with the Field Hockey program – led, largely, I believe, by head coach Charlene Morret – raised the bulk of the funds necessary through philanthropy. I know she was also VERY willing and enthusiastic to discuss the project, her visions for the program, and engage in informative discussions about the merits and requirements. That is a good thing – and it is the process through which optimal decisions are made.

For a “niche program”, with very little opportunity for revenue generation, to have raised such funds via philanthropy is a testament to their hard work, and the generosity of our donors. Kudos to both.

I would like to hear, specifically, that ICA will take on responsibility for any expenditures over and above the amount raised through philanthropy – and I expect to discuss this with new Athletic Director Pat Craft…. Who I am hopeful will provide some much needed sound fiscal management to that department.

In the interim, with both congratulations for a job well done thus far, and the hope for greater fiscal responsibility and strategic vision moving forward by PSU ICA, I can – cautiously – approve of this project.”
 

Agoodnap

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Sep 27, 2015
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PART 3:

Item 7) Faculty/Staff Salary Increases and Tuition Increases:

Important: These were listed as one item – though it should have been two separate items – and thereby required us, as Trustees, to vote on them both together. I asked for them to be separated, but was told (by Board leadership) to "pound sand" (in so many words).


Cliff’s Notes, This Item called for:
- Approval of the spending required to provide a 2.5% across-the-board increase to faculty/staff salaries
- And approval of increases to PSU tuition rates.
The tuition increase (details can be linked here: 2022-23-July-BOT-Schedules.pdf (psu.edu) ) was, roughly speaking, 5% increase for most Pennsylvania students, 6% increase for most Non-PA students, lower increases at Commonwealth Campus than at University Park, and a commitment on the part of Administration (Dr Bendapudi) to “make whole” all students with family incomes under $75,000 (presumably through grant money, provided by Penn State, to such students, in an amount equal to the increase in tuition costs)

I voted “No” (I was one of six who voted “No” – though I WANTED to vote “Yes” on the 2.5% salary increase for Staff/Faculty). I was, to the best of my recollection, the only one who gave Reasons and Explanations as to why they were voting "No" - so I couldn't say whether or not others agreed or disagreed with my assessments.
Those 6 who voted “No” were – Ted Brown, Alvin DeLevie, Anthony Lubrano, Jay Paterno, Alice Pope, and myself – all of whom are alumni-elected trustees. Three alumni-elected trustees – Christa Hasenkopf, Brandon Short, and Steve Wagman voted “Yes” – to approve the tuition hikes/salary increases. IIRC, two trustees, who are members of Tom Wolf’s cabinet, abstained from voting)

MY PUBLIC COMMENTS:
“This really should be two separate items – and the parameters of each are significantly different. I asked that the two items be separated but, as you all know, I was rebuffed.

With regard to the salary increases:
While I would like to see increased salary pools be allocated with a significant emphasis on performance-based differential increases - and I believe that, moving forward, that preference is shared by current administration - I also understand the desire to provide some baseline across-the-board salary increases - - so that all PSU employees can receive some salary boost.
And so, I can approve of that portion of the proposal

With regard to the Tuition Increases:
We know we were surprised by the lack of increased finding from the State… and it kind of threw things into a bit of a tizzy. Unfortunately, the prevailing knee-jerk reaction appears to have been “We have to raise tuition”.
IMO – the reaction should have been “We need to get to work on the things that we should have been doing for the last 10 years”.
Now, Dr Bendapudi and her administration walked into this crisis situation, not of their doing – we would be remiss to not recognize that, and I believe we are all hopeful that moving forward we will be able to work together – Board and Administration - to overcome the mess (and it is a mess) that we all find ourselves in.
That said, there is plenty of “low hanging fruit” with regard to savings and increased efficiencies that we can, and should, be able to harvest – to mitigate tuition increases at this time. The potential silver lining of the surprise from Harrisburg CAN be that it will light a fire under our behinds to do those things we should have been doing all along.

And so, if we cannot separate these two items – and I don’t know why we can’t, and we absolutely should separate them – I will have to vote “No”, even though I support the Salary increase portion of the item.”
 

The Spin Meister

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Nov 27, 2012
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An altered state
Report on PSU BOT meetings of July 2022: (Written by Barry Fenchak)

Quick (sorta’) run down on the seven items brought before the Board for a vote this week. Such items are also known as “Action Items”.

Action Items (items requiring approval through Board vote). There were seven of them.
I will discuss them in the order in which they were presented at the meeting – though the one generating the most discussion/interest is the “Tuition Increase”, which was the last item on the list (Item 7)…. Feel free to jump ahead to get to that one first.
For each, I will give a brief description of the item, provide any relevant background info, and – most importantly – transcribe what I said, on the record, at the meeting, list how I voted, and why:

Item 1) Approval of the Minutes from previous meeting.

As with most boards, the first item is generally approving of the Minutes from the previous meeting (essentially, approving that the record – the minutes – of the previous meeting are accurate)
Since I was not yet a member of the Board for the previous meeting, I , appropriately, did not vote on the approval.

Items 2, 3, 4:

The next three items were lumped together as “Consent Items” – with the typical procedure being that all of them would be voted on (approved) by a single voice vote.
I, as is my right/duty as a Trustee, asked that the first of these items be separated from the others for discussion and a separate vote. That item was:

Item 2) Election of Trustee Dan Delligatti to the Executive Committee.

I asked that this item be separated, and discussed, for some specific – and, I think, important – reasons.
To the best of my recollection, I was the only Trustee to provide any questions or commentary on this item.

I voted “No” (I believe I was the only dissenting vote), after making the following public comments:

MY PUBLIC COMMENTS:
“To be clear, my concerns are completely unrelated to the qualifications or abilities of the specific nominee to the Executive Committee – but rather to my belief that the existence of the “Executive Committee” does nothing to further the mission of providing responsible governance to Penn State, and indeed creates the opportunity for governance that is incongruent with “Responsible Governance”. I cannot support the addition of any Trustees to the committee.”


A little background:
There is no reason, IMO, for the existence of the Executive Committee.
The Board Bylaws, wrt the Executive Committee, state:
(a) Purpose of the Executive Committee. The purpose of the executive committee shall be to transact all necessary business as may arise in the intervals between regular meetings of the Board of Trustees; it being understood that action by the executive committee would not be expected to be taken except in extraordinary circumstances. Notice of any action by the executive committee shall be provided to the Board of Trustees at its next regular meeting.

With today’s technology, and the fact that most off-cycle meetings of the Board take place virtually, there is no reason that the full Board cannot be solicited in the event of an unexpected – and time-critical – issue arising. In brief, the existence of the Executive Committee, IMO, only serves to provide the opportunity for actions to be taken by a small subset of the Board – without the input and approval of all members of the Board. That is the opposite of responsible governance.

As can be seen here, under the “Meetings” tab, there are no records, agenda, or minutes listed for ANY Executive Committee meetings for at least the last 10 years.
Office of the Board of Trustees | (psu.edu)
Since all “deliberative” meetings (meetings where issues are discussed, and decisions are made or recommended) should be available to the public (and, most certainly, to all members of the Board), and appropriate records and minutes published, this would indicate that no such meetings ever occurred.

That said, when I asked that this item be separated for discussion, I specifically asked the current Board Chairman (Mathew Schuyler):
“When was the last meeting of Executive Committee held, to conduct University business?”.
Chairman Schuyler responded that the Executive Committee met most recently within the last few weeks.
I wanted that question/response to be placed on record. Because, if held, where are those records?
(important to keep in mind moving forward)


I believe that my comments served to make something crystal clear:
One of two things has transpired. Either such meetings were not held (and have not been held for at least a decade), or such meetings are held – perhaps with regularity - but they are held in such a way to exclude public access (and the involvement of most of the members of the Board) and are not properly recorded.
In either case, these would be stunning examples of irresponsible governance. This is an issue moving forward.

Items 3) and 4) The other two items on the Consent Agenda passed without, to my recollection, any meaningful comments:

– The addition of Tracy Riegel (new appointed Trustee) and Steve Wagman (alumni-elected Trustee) to the Board of the Corporation for Penn State.
- The granting of “Emeriti Trustee” status to former Trustees Kathleen Casey, Dick Dandrea, Barb Doran, and Bill Oldsey. “Emeriti Trustee” status entails a non-voting position – but with certain privileges (including access to attend and engage in discussions at Board meetings). Such status is bestowed upon certain former Trustees, who meet certain requirements, at the discretion of the Board.
Further details on “Emeriti” status, and the Corporation for Penn State, can be found within the PSU BOT Bylaws on the Board website. We will talk about some of those issues in greater detail at another time.
First up, didn’t realize that Mr Fenchak won election to the board. Congratulations on achieving what took years to do.

Glad to see your comments are civil, professional, reasonable, and well researched. From some his (your?) previous angry rants I was concerned about his behavior should ever win a seat. Congrats and keep doing so.

The post on the Exec Committee is excellent. What the board has needed for decades is sunshine. Having an exec com holding secret meetings for many years is despicable if not criminal. And the long history of inflated costs on new construction could also be criminal in nature.

Keep up the good fight!
 

Agoodnap

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Sep 27, 2015
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First up, didn’t realize that Mr Fenchak won election to the board. Congratulations on achieving what took years to do.

Glad to see your comments are civil, professional, reasonable, and well researched. From some his (your?) previous angry rants I was concerned about his behavior should ever win a seat. Congrats and keep doing so.

The post on the Exec Committee is excellent. What the board has needed for decades is sunshine. Having an exec com holding secret meetings for many years is despicable if not criminal. And the long history of inflated costs on new construction could also be criminal in nature.

Keep up the good fight!
I'm not Barry, just one of his supporters. I'll pass on your comments to Barry.
 

The Spin Meister

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Nov 27, 2012
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An altered state
I'm not Barry, just one of his supporters. I'll pass on your comments to Barry.
Would like to know more about the exec com, how they are constituted, what their past actions have been, is there any accountability. Can people file FOIA requests, legal actions for transparency, or other options?

So I took some time to look at the board makeup. It is about 39 people with a couple that have no vote. There are 9 alumni voted members, 6 business and industry, 6 from the agricultural businesses. The Exec Com has 13 members and one, the university president, doesn’t have a vote. Six are appointed by the governor plus the governor and three of his cabinet members are also on the board meaning there are nine people representing the governor. There are also two ‘at large’ members ......don’t know how they got appointed or to whom their allegiance is.

But what is weird is that there is only one alumni voted memeber, one Ag member, but five business and industry members. Two are governor appointed. And the past president of the Alumni Asssoc.......which depends heavily on the board for its funding. So out of twelve voting members there are five business and industry plus two governor stooges plus the Alumni Assoc guy that is heavily dependent on the board. And the two ‘at large’ members. So the five business and industry members only two others to back them on anything they want to do.

Since they meet in secret, have no minutes, no public reporting, makes one wonder. And when we see many items come before the entire board and get passed with little or know discussion it is quite obvious the Exec Com is running the university in total secrecy.
 

Agoodnap

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Sep 27, 2015
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Would like to know more about the exec com, how they are constituted, what their past actions have been, is there any accountability. Can people file FOIA requests, legal actions for transparency, or other options?

So I took some time to look at the board makeup. It is about 39 people with a couple that have no vote. There are 9 alumni voted members, 6 business and industry, 6 from the agricultural businesses. The Exec Com has 13 members and one, the university president, doesn’t have a vote. Six are appointed by the governor plus the governor and three of his cabinet members are also on the board meaning there are nine people representing the governor. There are also two ‘at large’ members ......don’t know how they got appointed or to whom their allegiance is.

But what is weird is that there is only one alumni voted memeber, one Ag member, but five business and industry members. Two are governor appointed. And the past president of the Alumni Asssoc.......which depends heavily on the board for its funding. So out of twelve voting members there are five business and industry plus two governor stooges plus the Alumni Assoc guy that is heavily dependent on the board. And the two ‘at large’ members. So the five business and industry members only two others to back them on anything they want to do.

Since they meet in secret, have no minutes, no public reporting, makes one wonder. And when we see many items come before the entire board and get passed with little or know discussion it is quite obvious the Exec Com is running the university in total secrecy.
If you would like to discuss with Barry here is his email address: bfenchak@comcast.net

His Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BarryFenchakPSUTrustee

He'll get back to you if you contact him.

You have to admit, so far he is quite a bit different from our other elected trustees, yes?
 

Obliviax

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Aug 21, 2001
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Would like to know more about the exec com, how they are constituted, what their past actions have been, is there any accountability. Can people file FOIA requests, legal actions for transparency, or other options?

So I took some time to look at the board makeup. It is about 39 people with a couple that have no vote. There are 9 alumni voted members, 6 business and industry, 6 from the agricultural businesses. The Exec Com has 13 members and one, the university president, doesn’t have a vote. Six are appointed by the governor plus the governor and three of his cabinet members are also on the board meaning there are nine people representing the governor. There are also two ‘at large’ members ......don’t know how they got appointed or to whom their allegiance is.

But what is weird is that there is only one alumni voted memeber, one Ag member, but five business and industry members. Two are governor appointed. And the past president of the Alumni Asssoc.......which depends heavily on the board for its funding. So out of twelve voting members there are five business and industry plus two governor stooges plus the Alumni Assoc guy that is heavily dependent on the board. And the two ‘at large’ members. So the five business and industry members only two others to back them on anything they want to do.

Since they meet in secret, have no minutes, no public reporting, makes one wonder. And when we see many items come before the entire board and get passed with little or know discussion it is quite obvious the Exec Com is running the university in total secrecy.
I looked at this some time ago, in the aftermath of the JS crap show. It was pretty clear that this board was useless. First, contractually, they are sworn to secrecy. Second, they are almost all appointed in some way or manner. The bottom line is that it is very similar to the Soviet Party. You first have to be in good standing as a Soviet to get to vote. That, in and of itself, corrupts the vote.

The BOT is worthless and has been for a long, long time. It isn't going to change unless students go Sri Lanka. Don't waste you time on it.
 

joeaubie21

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Oct 13, 2021
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I looked at this some time ago, in the aftermath of the JS crap show. It was pretty clear that this board was useless. First, contractually, they are sworn to secrecy. Second, they are almost all appointed in some way or manner. The bottom line is that it is very similar to the Soviet Party. You first have to be in good standing as a Soviet to get to vote. That, in and of itself, corrupts the vote.

The BOT is worthless and has been for a long, long time. It isn't going to change unless students go Sri Lanka. Don't waste you time on it.
A march on these turds is the only thing that will work.
 
  • Wow
Reactions: WHCANole

Agoodnap

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Sep 27, 2015
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Wolf is giving each state related institution $40M of COVID money and the BOTs voted to increase tuition? Shame on those bastards.
You either don't understand the sequence of events or you're purposely attempting to get a rise out of people. Which is it?