Our opinion: A case for transparency at PSU

Penn State student Nick Rizzio wanted to do the right thing.

As a resident assistant — a student entrusted with the safety of a portion of one of Penn State’s dorms — he wanted to better understand how the university was addressing reports of crimes.

So he sought data.

The university, by all appearances, stonewalled him.

Penn State has an obligation under the 1990 Clery Act to provide certain crime data to the public when requested.

Rizzio requested the information, according to a Spotlight PA report, by certified letter. the U.S. Postal Service confirmed the letter was received.

After weeks without a response and with Rizzio taking his concerns to the U.S. Department of Education, which has oversight of universities’ compliance with the Clery Act, and to the media, Penn State officials claimed they had not received the letter.

When Spotlight PA reached out to the school for further clarification, an official directed them to a boilerplate statement on the campus police website.

Penn State’s handling of this matter is disturbing. As an institution which receives federal and state funding, it has a greater obligation to transparency and accountability than many entities. And yet its compliance has been slow and seemingly reluctant and its explanations — perhaps excuses — unconvincing.

We hope our state Legislature and other state officials and the U.S. Department of Education take this matter seriously.

We support Mr. Rizzio’s calls for more investigation into how Penn State failed to address the requests for transparency in a timely and appropriately thorough manner.

Penn State needs to demonstrate, not only to a potential investigation but to its students and to taxpaying Pennsylvanians, a greater commitment to the principles of public access to information and to transparency.


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