Bagwell proposes Penn State open records plan

Published January 3, 2012

Middleton, Wisc. – A candidate for Penn State’s Board of Trustees today unveiled plans to open university records to the public, and called on lawmakers to delay legislation that would lessen the competitiveness of some Pennsylvania colleges.

Ryan Bagwell’s plan would adopt Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law as an official Penn State policy, with modifications to protect employee privacy, keep certain financial information confidential and expand access to other records that state law doesn’t provide.

“Penn State is an independent, private institution, with tax dollars comprising only 15 percent of its annual income,” he wrote in a letter to alumni. “Forcing it to follow rules designed for local school boards or municipal councils would make it difficult to retain employees and compete with other schools of a similar size and mission.”

In Letter to state Rep. Eugene DePasquale, Bagwell asked the York, Pa. Democrat to delay efforts that would make Pennsylvania’s open records law apply fully to the state’s four “state-related” universities. In its current form, the Right to Know Law only forces them to release a small amount of information that is also available by other means.

Under Bagwell’s plan, all university records would be open to public inspection, unless they fall within one of the Right to Know Law’s 30 exceptions.

His proposal would also keep some other records private to maintain Penn State’s ability to raise money and retain faculty, including investment records third-party licensing deals, trade secrets, some employee information (including employee salaries) and donor identities.

But it would expand access to records of police and internal investigations, information Pennsylvanians don’t have access to under the state’s open records law. That exemption for public bodies “gives law enforcement far too much power,” Bagwell wrote to alumni.

Bagwell also said he’d create an appeal process that would allow the Board of Trustees to override any records decision made by university administrators.

Three alumni trustee seats are open in this year’s election. The nominating period will start on January 15, and alumni who garner 50 nominations will secure a place on the trustee ballot.

Bagwell, 32, graduated from Penn State in 2002 with degrees in music and journalism. He announced his candidacy on Dec. 21.

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Ryan Bagwell