The Pennsylvania Association of State Colleges and Universities (PASCU)
New Book by Armenti Claims PASSHE’s Failure to Deliver the Promise of Act 188 Stems from Lack of a Fiduciary Relationship between PASSHE Leaders and Students
According to the book, PASSHE’s 100% political leadership has neither planned for nor achieved the promise of Act 188, “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students,” because their official oath of office does not specifically require them to initiate or maintain a fiduciary relationship.
Angelo Armenti, Jr., the former Villanova University Dean and 20-year President of California University (Cal U), recently announced the release of his new book, Privatization Without a Plan: A Failure of Leadership in Pennsylvania Public Higher Education.¹
In it, he describes what the absence of a fiduciary relationship between PASSHE leaders and PASSHE students has been doing to the students and the 14 PASSHE universities in Pennsylvania, which include Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.
The book Privatization Without a Plan calls upon the PASSHE Board of Governors to adopt, promulgate and foster a fiduciary relationship between itself and the students, including a duty of care, a duty of loyalty, and a duty of obedience to the statutory purpose of the PASSHE universities. These three duties are cited as Standards of Board Responsibility² by the Association of Governing Boards (AGB), which currently serves over 1,250 member institutions—colleges and universities, both public and private.
The term “fiduciary duties,” as applied to governing boards of colleges and universities is defined on the AGB website to include:
· The duty of care: board members should pay full attention to their responsibilities and protect institutional assets.
· The duty of loyalty: board members should put the interests of the institution before self-interests.
· The duty of obedience: board members should ensure that the mission is being fulfilled and that their actions are consistent with the mission and values of the institution.
According to the AGB, “The duty of care certainly requires that board members protect the financial assets of the institution but, more than that, to also protect the institution’s reputational, personnel and tangible assets as well. The duty of loyalty requires that board members put the interests of the institution before all others. The duty of obedience requires that board members act in a manner consistent with the mission and goals of the institution. Failure of this duty can result in loss of public confidence in the institution.”
The oath of officeᶟ taken by the 20 members of the PASSHE Board of Governors, and the 154 trustees on the 14 PASSHE University Councils of Trustees, simply requires each candidate for office to be sworn before a Notary Public and to sign his or her name to the following statement: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend the constitutition of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity. “
According to Armenti, the above oath which every candidate for public office must signᶟ is entitled the “Constitutional Oath of Office,” and is taken by numerous elected and appointed state officials who are associated with different State agencies. And while the wording of the above oath requires each oath-taker to discharge the duties of their office with fidelity, the object of their fidelity—beyond the U.S. and State constitutions—is not specified. “Regretably, the fiduciary duties expected of higher education governance board members across America are currently not required in Pennsylvania,” Armenti said.
The oath of office taken by members of the Board of Governors and the Councils of Trustees, according to Armenti, not only requires no fidelity to PASSHE’s majority financial stakeholders—the students, parents and alumni donors who currently pay 75% of the cost of education—neither does it require fidelity to Act 188, the enabling legislation that created the Board of Governors and Councils of Trustees and describes their statutory duties, nor does it require a fiduciary relationship with the students.
Since the official oath of office taken by PASSHE’s 100% political leadership requires fidelity neither to Act 188 nor to the majority financial stakeholders, PASSHE’s failure to adopt, promulgate and foster a fiduciary relationship with PASSHE students was unfortunately preordained, according to Armenti.
The Role of PASCU
PASCU’s mission is “To ensure that the statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania as specified by Act 188 of 1982: ‘High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students,’ is indefinitely preserved and faithfully delivered.” To advance that mission, PASCU seeks to reform the governance of PASSHE to require a fiduciary relationship between PASSHE leaders and PASSHE students.
¹ Privatization Without a Plan: A Failure of Leadership in Pennsylvania Public Higher Education is on sale now, available from Amazon.com in paperback and e-book. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=angelo%20armenti.
ABOUT THE AUTHORDr. Angelo Armenti Jr. served as President of California University of Pennsylvania (Cal U) from 1992 to 2012. Before that, he was a Dean at Villanova University, a professor of physics, and author of The Physics of Sports (American Institute of Physics, 1992). During his career at Cal U, Armenti is credited with establishing numerous funding sources for student scholarships and for campus revitalization projects, efforts made in part to address the problems that he describes in Privatization Without a Plan. In June of 2012, Armenti founded a non-profit corporation entitled The Pennsylvania Association of State Colleges and Universities (PASCU) whose mission it is to preserve the purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania.