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Penn State trustees address reforms at hearing

| Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, 8:39 a.m.
Jacqueline Dell, president of the Student Government Association at Penn State University's Greater Allegheny campus, heard Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano explain that students should not be named as voting trustees, saying it takes 'a very strong' 20- or 21-year-old 'to have the courage to speak their mind' in a room where more powerful adults can influence their votes. One student trustee now is appointed. Dell asked if a second could be named for branch campuses such as Greater Allegheny.
Penn State alumni from across the state, including Sandy Deveney from Chester County, addressed a hearing on Wednesday night at the Greater Allegheny campus. Seated at left is Anthony Lubrano, the only Penn State trustee to accept the invitation of state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre County, seated at right. Conklin sponsored four bills aimed at reforming the board of trustees, but all remain mired in state House committees.
M.J. Neumann of Scott Township, who graduated from Penn State in 1994, questioned state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre County, about another bill aimed at reforming Penn State's board of trustees. Conklin is pushing a four-bill package that remains mired in committee but said he would vote for another bill sponsored by Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre County, should it reach the House floor. Benninghoff's House Bill 61 would extend Right to Know law requirements to Penn State and other state-related universities.
State Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre County, second from left, has not received any hearing in committee for four bills he has proposed to reform the Penn State board of trustees, so he went on the road, bringing his staff and a member of that board, Anthony Lubrano, at left, to a hearing on Wednesday at the Greater Allegheny campus straddling the McKeesport-White Oak line.
Former state Sen. Robert Jubelirer, R-Blair County, answers questions during a hearing on Wednesday night at Penn State's Greater Allegheny campus called to draw attention to four bills that would reform the Penn State board of trustees. At Jubelirer's left is Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano, who favors the bills pressed by state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre County.

A state lawmaker from Centre County continued to press his package of proposed reforms to the way Penn State University is governed at a hearing on Wednesday at PSU's Greater Allegheny campus.

State Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, is prime sponsor of House Bills 299, 310, 311 and 312, which were referred to the House Education and State Government committees on Jan. 23.

Conklin said his bills would:

• Make the state's Right-to-Know Law applicable to Penn State as well as the other state-related universities, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln.

• Cut the size of the board of trustees from 32 to 22 members.

• Establish three-year terms and a three-term limit for trustees.

• Require annual election of board officers.

• Require trustees to comply with the state's Ethics Act.

• Bar the university president and the governor from serving as voting members of the board.

• Make the governor and state secretaries of Education, Agriculture and Conservation & Natural Resources ex-officio board members.

• Bar the governor and state row officers from serving on the board for four years after their terms end.

Co-sponsors of the package include Reps. R. Ted Harhai, D-Monessen, and Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg.

“The only way you are going to get true reform is through the legislative process,” said former state Sen. Robert Jubelirer, R-Blair County, at a McKeesport hearing Conklin convened because none had occurred for his bills in Harrisburg.

Jubelirer was an unsuccessful candidate for the board of trustees in elections this past spring.

“It is important to the university and to the future of the university and confidence of all of you who love the university that we continue to persevere,” Jubelirer said. “Much needs to be done to restore Penn State as the greatest university in the land.”

“We need change, we need reform,” Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano told an audience that never exceeded two dozen in the Ostermayer Room at Greater Allegheny's Student Community Center. “Without the legislative effort we will continue to kick the can down the road at Penn State.”

Jubelirer has roots in the Mon-Yough area — his father lived in McKeesport, his father's siblings were born here, and all of them graduated from old McKeesport High School.

Penn State trustee chairman Keith Masser said Conklin's bills are unnecessary and declined the invitation to testify in McKeesport.

“This subject matter has been covered in several official legislative committee hearings in Harrisburg, and another that you hosted in State College just two months ago,” Masser wrote. “Furthermore, questions related to the structure and operations of the Penn State board of trustees continue to be raised and debated among members of the board, and are the subject of ongoing review by the board's Committee on Governance and Long-Range Planning, which continues to seek input from internal and external experts.”

The State College hearing, like the one in McKeesport, was not sanctioned by legislative leaders. Conklin said the “official legislative committee hearings” dealt with another measure, House Bill 61, which would extend the state Right to Know Law to cover Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln.

HB 61's prime sponsor is Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre County. Kortz is a co-sponsor of that bill, as are Reps. George Dunbar, R-Penn Township, and Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township.

The House State Government Committee approved HB 61 on April 22, but then tabled it on June 17.

On April 10, Conklin presented resolutions to compel the Education and State Government committees to discharge his bills. He believed the April 22 committee vote on HB 61 was prompted by rumors that he would press for a vote that day on the discharge resolutions.

Conklin said his proposals were prompted by recommendations issued by then-state Auditor General Jack Wagner in the wake of the conviction and sentencing of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on child sexual abuse charges.

Lubrano knew the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and told the Greater Allegheny gathering of a meeting he had with Paterno less than two weeks before his death, and after the Penn State trustees stripped Paterno of his coaching position.

“This isn't about me,” Lubrano quoted Paterno as saying. “It is about our school and leaving it a better place than we found it.”

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or

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