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Take public bucks? Follow public rules

April 25. 2013 11:30PM
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Penn State and at least two of the other three state-related universities are said to oppose a bill working its way through the Legislature that would require them to fully comply with Pennsylvania’s open records law.

Unlike the 14 schools in the State System of Higher Education, Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Lincoln University are not state-owned — but they do receive state funding.

Because of that unique relationship, the state-related schools were mostly exempted from the 2009 Right-to-Know Law revision. Other than certain records such as the salaries of highest-paid employees, those schools aren’t subject to the same public scrutiny as other government bodies and the state universities.

The problem with the exemptions became glaringly apparent after the arrest of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who molested 10 young boys for 15 years, sometimes on university property. He’s currently serving at least 30 years in prison.

Three top university officials now are awaiting trial, accused of knowing about previous allegations against Sandusky and sweeping them under the rug.

Would Sandusky have been able to prey on children under the noses of university officials for so long if Penn State were not exempt from the state’s open records law?

There’s no way to know.

It’s easy to imagine it would have been more difficult for the pedophile if others were aware of the numerous red flags over the years and were willing to shine a light on him.

But Penn State was under no obligation to air whatever dirty laundry it might have — and it still isn’t.

Pitt and Temple have indicated to lawmakers they also oppose the bill, while a spokesman for Lincoln University declined comment. At issue here is public money: For schools that claim not to be state agencies, the four universities sure do take a lot of it — more than half a billion dollars this fiscal year.

That seems like more than enough to buy full public accountability.

The York Dispatch

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