Deborah L. Musselman
While many Pennsylvanians and citizens across the United States are more or less riveted by the allegations of child abuse that are still-unfolding at Penn State, some have also called for more transparency at Penn State. In fact, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association published a guest editorial in the Patriot-News in June of 2007, urging legislators and Penn State officials alike to acknowledge the school’s central identity as a Pennsylvania institution.
You’ll recall that the 2007 editorial acknowledged the school’s worthy academic and athletic traditions and highlighted one of then-president Spanier’s central arguments opposing inclusion in the new law: that disclosure of Penn State records could harm the university’s ability to raise money from deep pocket donors, or inappropriately subject research-related trade secrets to disclosure to competitors. Although we believed that such concerns were adequately addressed with the Act’s specific, targeted language on those very topics, the university’s broad concerns about protecting its finances prevailed. The four state-related institutions ultimately were placed under the requirements of their own specific chapter of the new law, one that is very limited in scope.
Review recent coverage of how the Right to Know Act applies to Penn State, and editorials making pertinent recommendations for placing state-related institutions under the scope of the Act. We’re gratified to find that a number of legislators are also interested in this deficiency, and hope to work with the sponsors as corrective legislation moves through the process. We would never suggest that broader disclosure of Penn State finances and operations would have prevented the assaults that are alleged to have occurred on campus. We do believe, however, that the current situation illustrates why any institution that receives public funds – however small a portion of its overall budget, as repeatedly noted by Penn State – should adhere to a higher, and transparent standard on the use it makes of that money. We’ll watch this situation with interest, and work to improve the Right to Know Act’s applicability to Penn State and all the state-related institutions.
Below, see what our members are saying about Penn State and its exception from the Right to Know Act.