The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


October 25, 2013

Not swayed by schools' stance | Say they're exempt from Right-to-Know Law

JOHNSTOWN — So our commonwealth’s state university shouldn’t be covered by its Right-to-Know Law?

That’s what lawyers for Penn State – as well as Pitt, Lincoln and Temple universities – argued in court this week. Despite the fact that the four state-related universities combined to take in hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding, the four schools feel that they should be exempt from disclosing some details that the 14 state-owned colleges in the State System of Higher Education – which includes Indiana University of Pennsylvania – are forced to by the 2008 law.

The 5-year-old revisions to the Right-to-Know Law largely excluded the state-afflicted schools, according to The Associated Press, but imposed new requirements that they disclose certain financial information annually, including some of their largest salaries.

The schools balked at that, with Valerie Harrison, the general counsel at Lincoln University saying that greater public disclosure would amount to an unfunded mandate, according to the AP, and that disclosure of all staff salaries could create animosity.

Sorry if we’re not moved by the plight of the sociology professor who finds out that he is making less than the head of the department of electrical engineering. Or the college dean who doesn’t want the public to know that he got a 5 percent raise at the same time the university is calling for a massive tuition increase. In fact, the latter is the very reason that we should have a public record of staff salaries.

Neither are we particularly worried about the “administrative burden” that might be placed on these schools by having to comply with it. The state system schools, which are much smaller than some of the state-related universities, are able to find ways to handle the paperwork. So do the other states where large state universities are required to follow the Right-to-Know Law.

The impetus for the change in Pennsylvania was the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case at Penn State. There is no doubt in our minds that Happy Valley leaders should have been more forthcoming with information surrounding allegations against Sandusky years ago.

But, the Sandusky matter shouldn’t even play a role in this case.

It’s very simple: If the schools want to take state money, they need to play by the state’s rules.

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