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Who paid for Bendapudi’s chartered plane to Rose Bowl?

Plus: Shapiro State Police funding plan raises concerns, benefits worker shortage, and PSU delays diversity town hall

This is Talk of the Town, a free weekly newsletter delivering top news from State College and the surrounding region.

April 6, 2023
This just in! For the first time ever, Spotlight PA’s State College bureau will be participating in Centre Gives! We are seeking readers to help promote our campaign on social media May 10-11. Want to help? Get in touch with Michelle Mertz, michelle@spotlightpa.org.
Inside this edition: Penn State chartered a private jet for Bendapudi to attend the Rose Bowl, Pa. faces a benefits worker shortage, and State College female hockey players still feel unequal after legal win.
Abby Drey / Centre Daily Times

A private jet flew Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi to the Rose Bowl. Who paid for it?

The Penn State Transparency Tracker is an ongoing effort by Spotlight PA to document and share the ways in which the university is, and is not, being transparent with the community. Due to its special “state-related” designation, Penn State is not subject to open records laws beyond the public disclosure of basic financial information.

In the weeks following Penn State’s Rose Bowl victory over the University of Utah in January, Spotlight PA received several tips alleging the university chartered a private jet for President Neeli Bendapudi to attend the football game.

In light of the university’s financial problems and looming cuts, Spotlight PA first worked to verify the allegations.

Flight records show a Gulfstream V jet traveled from State College to Denver to Burbank, California, and then departed to Pennsylvania shortly after the end of the game. Flight records also show the university’s planes were not used at that time.

Bendapudi attended the Rose Bowl pep rally and was on the field during the post-game victory celebration.

After sharing the above information with Penn State, Spotlight PA asked the university the following questions:

  1. How did President Bendapudi travel to and from the 2023 Rose Bowl?
  2. If the president traveled in a chartered plane, who paid for the trip and what was the cost?
Penn State responded in an email:

“As the president was expected to be at the bowl game for attendance at specific events, the planning included budgeting for presidential travel to be paid for from bowl funds,” the university wrote. “This is consistent with the practice at many other universities. Given that University planes are not designed to fly that distance without multiple stops, a plane was chartered, and the cost was covered through the Rose Bowl payout, handled by Intercollegiate Athletics (a self-sustaining unit). The University does not typically disclose specific operational costs.”

Based on that information, here’s what you need to know:

Penn State Athletics is a self-funded department. Payments for aircraft or other costs coming from the athletics budget are not connected to the university’s ongoing budget deficit. Penn State has previously declined to share the costs of operating its aircraft

Have an idea for the Penn State Transparency Tracker? Submit tips or questions to wmassey@spotlightpa.org. You can also share documents and other materials to help make our reporting more robust. Read more about sharing such information here.

Wyatt Massey, Penn State Investigative Reporter

“As advocates, we’re worried that the numbers of people losing coverage won’t become apparent right away. By this summer, we could be in a troubling situation with many more uninsured than we have today.”

—Patrick Keenan, a policy director for the group Pennsylvania Health Access Network, of the strain that could be put on the Medicaid benefits system
» Campaign finance, lobbying reform still receiving little attention in Pa. legislature

» Pa. faces a shortage of benefits workers as health coverage for thousands is on the line

» Shapiro’s proposed Pa. State Police fund saves road dollars but raises accountability concerns

» PRIMARY PRIMER: Join us next Thursday, April 13 from 6-7 p.m ET via Zoom for a free panel on Pa.’s Supreme Court candidates and why the 2023 election matters. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org

Daniel Fishel / For Spotlight PA
» How Spotlight PA will cover Pa.’s 2023 primary election
» A guide to Commonwealth, Superior Court candidates
» A guide to the Pa. Supreme Court candidates
» Guía completa de los candidatos a la Corte Suprema del Estado
» At least one big hurdle remains to open primaries in Pa.

» Court decision does little to clear up ballot curing confusion
» How unequal policies disenfranchised Pa. voters in 2022

» Register to vote in the May 16 primary here; deadline May 1
» Request your mail ballot for the May 16 primary here; deadline May 9

Support Spotlight PA’s public-service election and voting coverage now. Become a sustaining monthly donor and get your gift matched 12X! 
“Glory-of-the-snow” flowers blooming in early spring — via @plumriverphoto

Want to be featured here? Send your best local pics to talkofthetown@spotlightpa.org.
» CDT: Penn State pushes back planned DEIB town hall to April
» Mirror: Gov. Shapiro visits Blair County
» Sun-Gazette: New Lycoming coroner’s building receives $100K grant
» NCPA: Nonprofit funding to address homelessness in Williamsport

» CDT: State College female hockey players still feel unequal
Want us to list your event? Send it to us.

» April 6: The Altoona Curve play the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on Opening Day at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

» April 7: First Friday returns in downtown State College.

» April 7: Central Pennsylvania Observers host a public Skywatch at Bernel Park, with members of the Penn State anthropology department sharing different cultures
stories and mythologies.

» April 7-9: Happy Valley Indian Performing Arts Festival at Penn State features Indian classical singers and dancers.

» April 9: Watch the sunrise from the Skywalk at Kinzua Bridge State Park with this organized early morning walk.

» April 11: The Center for the Performing Arts presents “Our Planet Live in Concert,” featuring the university’s philharmonic orchestra with on-screen co-narration by David Attenborough and William Shatner.
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