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Racism, harassment pervade public PA universities

Plus, the PA drummer behind the $56B Elon Musk loss

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

Friday, February 2, 2024
Today: PASSHE probe, Chester 'saved,' phony Phils, appeal process, more voters, little libraries, and a new trail of the year. Happy Groundhog Day!

A new report finds students of color in Pennsylvania’s public university system face racism and feel unwelcome and unsupported on campuses. 

State Sen. Art Haywood (D., Philadelphia) and the head of Pennsylvania’s civil rights agency compiled the report as part of an ongoing advocacy effort in response to a 2020 Spotlight PA investigation of the issue. That story found the higher education system, known as PASSHE, had a pattern of ignoring and failing to act on students’ concerns.

The new report, the product of a statewide listening tour over the past two years, echoes those findings. 

Haywood said PASSHE has already taken steps to address racism and disparities in graduation and retention rates, but said more improvements are needed. 

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Pervasive racism, harassment plagues state-owned universities despite changes


"There are a bunch of other groundhogs … Phil is the only real one.”

Abby Miller, of the Penn State Behrend Groundhog Club, on Punxsutawney Phil’s “imposter” rivals.
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A white-tailed deer at Stoneleigh in Villanova, via Don N. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

a deer behind a black fence
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.PLANT PAUSE: Advocates and the mayor of Chester welcomed President Joe Biden’s decision to pause approval of liquefied natural gas plants in the city, citing health and environmental concerns. Supporters of LNG plants argue the bankrupt city will lose out on jobs and tax revenues, The Inquirer (paywall) reports, but the mayor said Biden “saved Chester.”

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.APPEAL HOW-TO: Pennsylvania has a new way of appealing denied health insurance claims. WHYY explains how it works, who's eligible, and how long reviews might take. The Pennsylvania Insurance Department’s Independent Review Program launched this month.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
 REGISTRATION RESULTS: When Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro introduced automated voter registration at driver's license centers last year, Republicans in and beyond Pennsylvania said the move would benefit Democrats, but newly released data show the new policy did not have a partisan effect. In fact, more Republicans have signed up at the centers, the AP reports. Overall, registrations at the centers increased 45% compared to a similar period two years ago. 

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.GRANT WOES: Philadelphia’s school board regularly grants huge tax breaks to several property developers that are supposed to provide alternative revenue and job opportunities for students, but Chalkbeat reports the cuts have mostly resulted in tens of millions of dollars lost and undeveloped properties. Yet, the board approved the grants in a recent vote, a move that drew criticism from advocates.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania. GRAVE CONCERNS: The Penn Museum faces scrutiny for quietly burying the remains of 19 Black Philadelphians after announcing there would be a service held this Saturday. Community organizers and anthropologists accused the museum of not properly researching the deceased and rushing the burial.
🤔 NEXT QUESTION: Are you on top of the news? Prove it with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz: budget season, abortion ruling, election plans, and 2024’s river of the year.
MUSK v METAL: A Pennsylvania metal drummer who held nine Tesla shares successfully won a case against CEO Elon Musk, who had a $56 billion pay package from the company invalidated by a judge Tuesday. 

BLACK HISTORY: Looking for ways to celebrate Black History Month? Consult PennLive’s (paywall) round-up of events happening across the state.

BANNED BOOKS: Philly’s tourism hub is celebrating Black History Month by setting up free libraries across the city featuring books banned in other states, KYW-TV  reports. 

NEW EXHIBIT: Pittsburgh’s Freedom House Ambulance Service pioneered emergency care in the U.S., a history celebrated in the city’s 2024 Black History Month exhibit, the Union Progress reports. 

TRAIL HONOR: Need to break in some new boots? Visit the Trails at Jake Rocks, which have been named Pennsylvania’s 2024 Trail of the Year by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. 
Are you a Berks County resident? We're seeking community input! Join one of our upcoming Spotlight PA - Berks County listening sessions:

Feb. 21: 5:30-7:30 p.m. at West Lawn-Wyomissing Hills Library | Register Here

A listening session is an informal, small-group discussion in which we are seeking your thoughts, opinions, and concerns on local news coverage, information access, community information needs, and news consumption habits. Visit spotlightpa.org/berks for more information.
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.
E D E F R E T T U N 

Yesterday's answer: Proletariat

Congrats to our daily winners: John P., Barbara F., Eric F., Elaine C., Daniel M., Bob C., Ted W., Stacy S., Jane R., Jon W. Susan N., Vicki U., Don H., Jana C., Alan B., Richard A., Kim C., Pat D., Amelia M., Tom M., Wendy A., William Z, and Jody A.
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