State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Penn State Argues Against Possible Right-to-Know Changes

by on October 22, 2013 11:33 AM

Penn State takes its case to Harrisburg, arguing the university should not be fully covered under the state's Right-to-Know Law.

Representatives from Penn State, along with the three other state-related universities -- University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Lincoln University, all appeared at a hearing before the Senate Committee on State Government Monday.

Those schools have one main concern: since they are not state agencies, they would not have sovereign immunity protection from lawsuits if they were to be fully covered under Right-to-Know. While the universities are subject to certain provisions of Right-to-Know, making the universities fully compliant under the law might hurt them, says Penn State spokesperson Lisa Powers.

Powers says defining Penn State as a state agency is contrary to the fundamental design of the state-related universities, and defining the state-related universities as state agencies could have unintended consequences.

"There are some classified contracts in terms of research dollars that would definitely be a competitive disadvantage if we had to share that documentation," Powers says. "There is also donor information as well as student's information."

Penn State's General Counsel Steve Dunham was questioned before the the senate committee on the proposed changes to Right-to-Know.

"We are clearly public universities," Dunham says according to a news release issued by Penn State. "But we have private attributes and characteristics in both the way we get funding and the way we perform our services."

Some of these characteristics include the medical school and the health care environment in which Penn State operates as well as tech-transfer functions that major research universities, such as Penn State, are involved in.

Powers further says that Penn State has always been compliant with its Right-to-Know mandates, and that they are in agreement with the senate as to some changes in coverage for the university.

One of the proposed changes Penn State favors is to make campus police departments fully covered under the Right-to-Know law.

Penn State already has to disclose some of it's information as a result of Right-to-Know. Penn State has to make financial disclosures to make sure they are accountable for the funds they receive from the state. Penn State also has to disclose data each year on academic related matters as well as data regarding faculty and staff workload. 


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Adam Lidgett is a freelance reporter who has covered news and feature stories in State College and Centre County.
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