Higher Learning, Low Disclosure

Two universities-both members of the State System of Higher Education-and two Right to Know requests make for a situation where the public is getting a glimpse of some of the goings on at its state owned institutions of education, a 14 university system that has 106k students, close to 5,000 faculty, and receives some $473 million in instructional appropriations according to the most recent data available from the Joint State Government Commission’s report on faculty output.

In western Pennsylvania it was disclosed this week that the outgoing President of Indiana University of Pennsylvania will be paid a lump sum of $253k and an undetermined amount of earned but unused leave, along with $15k in moving expenses and a reimbursement for health care coverage according to a "release and settlement agreement" that was released in response to a Right to Know request. The agreement restricted the amount of discussion that could occur in reference to the settlement.

In eastern Pennsylvania a newspaper successfully sued in Commonwealth Court (which upheld and broadened the decision of the state’s Open Records Office) to have East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania disclose financial details related to the related East Stroudsburg University Foundation, an agency that the university unsuccessfully argued was a separate and independent organization not subject to Right to Know disclosures.

Just two examples that raise some questions-cushy separation packages and quasi-private organizations usually do. Will these cases raise awareness? The System was the target of less than ten Right to Know requests in 2009 according to the state’s Open Records Office annual report.