Letter to the Editor: 9/17/2015

Dear Pitt News:

In reply to the September 16 editorial “We Have The Right to Know”, Ms. Lieberman very misleadingly states that the Right-to-Know Law “allows state-related institutions, like Pitt, to not disclose financial records.”   As I explained to Ms. Lieberman, there are requirements of Pennsylvania law (including the PA School Code and Pitt’s annual appropriation bill) which have, for many years, mandated that Pitt disclose extensive information regarding the finances of the University, including how Commonwealth funds are spent, as well as extensive information relating to the make-up of the student body, the numbers, workloads and salaries of faculty members and staff, and much more. For example, the PA School Code requires disclosure of revenues and expenditures for the prior fiscal year as well as budgets for the current year. Also required is a list of all University contracts for the purchase of goods and services of $1,000 or more. By way of illustration, if one were to print out all of the disclosures that Pitt submits to the Commonwealth and the Federal government annually (many are now submitted electronically), the stack of documents would be almost a foot tall.

Taken together, these existing disclosure requirements make extensive information regarding all aspects of the operations of the University available to the public. As I also explained to Ms. Lieberman, one of the benefits of the proposed amendments to the Right-to Know Law is that the changes would collect all of these disclosure requirements that are contained in various Pennsylvania laws, including the School Code and the University’s annual appropriation bill, and put all such requirements into the text of the Right-to Know Law.

In order to adequately evaluate and discuss the proposed amendments to the Right-to-Know law, one must first take into account the pre-existing requirements for disclosures to the Commonwealth, whether those disclosures are part of the existing Right-to-Know law or contained in other Commonwealth laws.

One additional correction: Contrary to the statement in the Editorial, while proposing an 11% increase for the state-related universities, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf called for these universities to keep any tuition increases to within inflationary levels, and did not call on the University of Pittsburgh to freeze tuition. While the budget vetoed by Gov. Wolf on June 30 contained a 3% increase for the state-related universities (as well as for the State System of Higher Education universities), Pitt still held tuition increases within the inflationary parameter sought by Gov. Wolf, with an overall tuition increase of 1.7 %, and froze tuition at the Bradford, Greensburg, Johnstown and Titusville campuses. Governor Wolf did ask the State System of Higher Education, which he also proposed for an 11% increase, to freeze their tuition. Tuition at the PASSHE schools increased by 2.47% for the current academic year.

Thank you for the opportunity to correct the record.

Paul A. Supowitz

Vice Chancellor for Community and Governmental Relations

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