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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration


Student Trustees & Transparency

The Penn State Board of Trustees holds, among its nearly 50 seat membership, one slot open for a “student trustee” to represent the interests of the Penn State student community directly. Traditionally, this seat had been handed to someone from within the student government, but now the seat is being vacated after a number of years.

What’s the problem, you ask? The problem is, the seat is currently held by Galen Foulke, a man who has not been an undergraduate for quite some time and with whom most place the blame for the degraded state of student life at Penn State, aside from the now canned Vicky Triponey.

Graham Spanier and others in Old Main have seen fit to give Galen Foulke the power directly to control the nomination process for the student that will succeed him as the next trustee — presumably for the standard three year term. Aside from secret-society speculation, it’s clear that allowing one person essentially final say in the process goes beyond the pale in violating student rights as well as our time honored tradition of students being at least somewhat popularly elected (visa vis being a member of the elected student government).

The Daily Collegian — During [Foulke’s] tenure, he was criticized for the appearance of having conflicting interests as a representative of students and an administrative board member.

Foulke, who ends his three-year term July 1, 2008, will appoint an eight-student committee representing “a broad cross-section of the university” to review applications and pinpoint top candidates.

“I invite these people to the committee,” he said. “I identify what people I think should be on it and invite them.”

This “invitation only” process has raised questions among members of Safeguard Old State (SOS), a student advocacy group, who believe the process should be more democratic.

“I think, ideally, it would be a better process if it was up for popular vote since the position affects everyone,” said Gavin Keirans, SOS executive director, adding that SOS members are considering applying. “At least it’s open applications. It’s a better process than in the past when it has gone right to the governor.”

I’ve been told by folks within the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) — Penn State’s student government — that they’re already looking to take control of the student trustee selection process away from Galen Foulke as some members deem the entire affair as “biased and embarrassing”. I could hardly have said it better myself.

We need to strive for excellence, Old Main, and what you’ve saddled us with here is certainly not excellent.

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