State-Related Universities Plead Exemption from Right-to-Know Law

Not technically state agencies, they argue

Penn State and its three state-related brethren—Pitt, Temple and Lincoln—argued to a state committee that they were exempt from portions of Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know law, unlike the state’s 14 fully-funded state institutions.

The application of Right-to-Know to state-related institutions has received renewed scrutiny after the Sandusky case.

The universities seem to be trying to crawl through a small bit of legal wiggle room to exempt themselves from the law, as they are still bound by other laws—like the 14th Amendment—that apply to public institutions.

Valerie Harrison, general counsel at Lincoln University said greater public disclosure would amount to an unfunded mandate, while disclosure of all staff salaries could create animosity.

Stephen Dunham, Penn State’s top lawyer, said putting it fully under the Right-to-Know Law would damage the school’s decision making systems, which reflect its status as more private and autonomous than similar large public universities in other states.

Color us skeptical, but in-house bickering over salaries seems like a weak defense that has nothing to do with issues of public-ness. And if the University of California system is apparently mandated to open up its books, it doesn’t seem like the transparency would be quite as deleterious as Duhnham claims. [AP]