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Penn State Right-To-Know: Controversy or Compliance?

Update 10:00pm: We have included a response from a Penn State representative.

According to Thorstein Veblen, the pseudonymous creator of the “anti-authoritarian” watchdog blog, Left of Centre, Penn State has some egg to clear off of its face. Citing Bill Shackner’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, Mr. Veblen believes that Penn State has cheated its way out of full compliance with Pennsylvania’s Right-To-Know Law, legislation which requires institutions of higher learning to release fiscal information.

Here’s the problem in a nutshell: the report asked if Penn State employed close family of trustees and board members, with compensation exceeding $10,000 a year. Penn State responded with a “Yes,” but refrained from then listing these individuals as directed by the report. According to Veblen, this was a huge no-no, and it furthered his view that “Graham just doesn’t like any transparency.” Ironically, Graham’s wife, an English professor at PSU,  is a prime example of someone who should be listed in the report.

Let’s be honest: everybody loves a scandal. In fact, sometimes a public love of scandal pushes individuals to blow up nit-picky minutiae to epic proportions. I would call out Left of Centre’s author on this here, but despite the lack of size of PSU’s omission, the anonymous Mr. Veblen is right. A sense of transparency is important in an institution of Penn State’s size. The chances that the trustees are actually engaging in rampant nepotism is low. But, it is important that the public is able to make sure that nothing shady is happening.

In response, Penn State’s Geoff Rushton had the following to say:

The University knows of no significant transactions between it and any person described in the question other than transactions in the normal course of its activities. [Here, Mr. Rushton is referring to Schedule O of the report, a stipulation that allows for the names to be omitted if they relate only to the ordinary course of business.] … there certainly was no intent to avoid compliance, and we’re working to make sure we have met the requirements of the Commonwealth.”

For your opinion-forming pleasure, here is the report in its entirety.


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