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Staff accuse Penn State of empty diversity pledge

Plus, what all these special elections cost.

The logo of PA Post, a free daily newsletter delivering the top news from across Pennsylvania every day.

A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Thursday, February 29, 2024
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Today: 'Smoke and mirrors,' youth detention, special spending, campaign finance, money for home, and a recycling legend. Happy Leap Day.  

The controversial cancellation of a planned Center for Racial Justice at Penn State came with a conciliatory promise from the university's president: Millions of dollars earmarked for the center would instead be put toward promising diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts already underway there.

But Spotlight PA found that hundreds of thousands of dollars were cut from those same programs months prior, and now, almost a year and a half later, many of the programs are operating with less financial support than they previously had. One staffer called it "a really poor sleight of hand." Another dismissed such diversity proclamations as "all smoke and mirrors."

Read the full report: Before Penn State pledged more money for diversity efforts, some of their budgets had been cut.


"What I saw confirmed my concerns and fears. Israel has the right and responsibility to defend itself, its sovereignty, and its citizens — but what is happening is beyond self-defense and is unacceptable to me."

—U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean (D., Pa.) calling for a bilateral cease-fire in Gaza after a trip to the region; she also criticized Israel's prime minister

'All Sun, No Shade' Beach Towel

Get our limited edition towel in celebration of Sunshine Week, coming up March 10-16.

Promote government transparency & tan lines, all in support of Spotlight PA's vital journalism. SHOP THE PRE-SALE NOW >

BLACK WALL STREET: Join us Thursday, March 7 from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a free panel on the history of Harrisburg’s Black Wall Street and the people working to preserve its legacy and ensure a future for Black-owned businesses. Register here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org.


A boot at the Philadelphia Flower Show, as seen by @lora_explores. Send us photos by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A cowboy boot made of brown leaves.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.MAXIMUM SECURITY: A 48-bed unit on the grounds of a maximum-security men’s prison in Montgomery County would house boys as young as 13 under an $18.1 million proposal in Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro's latest budget plan, The Inquirer (paywall) reports. Proposed to address overcrowding, the plan has outraged advocates.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.IN ISOLATION: City Paper says the case of a 17-year-old girl held in near-total isolation at Allegheny County Jail is representative of what observers call de facto solitary confinement at the facility following a 2021 voter-backed ban on the practice. A spokesperson said the child's confinement complies with the terms of that referendum.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.ELECTION TAB: Nine special elections have cost Pennsylvania taxpayers nearly $1 million since January 2023. PennLive (paywall) reports state Rep. Chris Rabb (D., Philadelphia) has legislation to reduce costs via reforms (like mail voting only) and restitution paid by officials who vacate their seats due to felony convictions.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
MONEY TRAIL: Democratic state treasurer candidate Erin McClelland failed to report campaign spending and fundraising to the state as required, per Capital-Star. McClelland was late registering a fundraising committee. And while her team works on a fix, one former state official is lamenting a lack of enforcement mechanisms in related laws.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.TRANSFER TAX: Amid lots of election year posturing over border control, state Sens. Chris Gebhard (R., Lebanon) and Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin) want to to add a 10% fee to international wire transfers here "to deter illegal immigration." Details are scant. In 2017, NPR took a look at similar proposals and where the transfers actually go.
UPMC MASKING: Masks are no longer required at UPMC facilities in Pennsylvania starting today, nearly two months after COVID-19, flu, and RSV caseloads led officials to renew a pandemic-era mandate.

FEBRUARY CONTINUED: Today is Leap Day, and much like a presidential contest, it only happens every four years. USA Today has a list of discounts and freebies being offered by familiar chains.

BASEBALL LIFE: Defector profiles the ad-hoc systems of support for minor league baseball players in the U.S. from other countries. A new union could help — but only those on teams covered by the landmark deal.

NEW NAME: Verizon Hall at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts is being renamed for famed singer and civil rights activist Marian Anderson, a native of the city, NBC10 reports.

RECYCLING HISTORY: Congrats to Joanne Shafer — Pennsylvania’s longest serving recycling coordinator, per StateCollege.com — who's stepping down after 33 years leading Centre County’s recycling efforts.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Recompense

Congrats to our daily winners: Vicki U., Marty M., Tracy S., Daniel M., Tom M., Bob C., Stacy S., Jon W., Ted W., Judith D., Don H., Kimberly D., Starr B., Barbara F., Craig E., Richard A., Elaine C., Jody A., Lynne E., Elizabeth R., Susan N.-Z., Janet S., Tish M., Jeffrey F., Marie B., Wendy A., William Z., Jane R., Stanley J., Alan B., and Kim C.
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