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Penn State says tour guide misconduct wasn’t hazing

Plus: Some probation officers kept from police misconduct database, and an unprecedented analysis of 1 million medical marijuana certifications.

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February 2, 2023
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Inside this edition: Penn State says misconduct by Lion Ambassadors wasn't hazing, the university hasn't reimbursed Pa. State Police for Proud Boys event security, and a Spotlight PA investigation into how anxiety came to dominate the medical marijuana business. Happy Groundhog Day!
Georgianna Sutherland / For Spotlight PA

Penn State’s Lion Ambassadors were accused of hazing. Why isn’t it on the hazing report?

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.

When a former Penn State student claimed responsibility for vandalizing the Lion Shrine last year, she also alleged inappropriate conduct including hazing by the Lion Ambassadors, a student group responsible for giving campus tours to prospective students.

The university confirmed to Onward State and The Daily Herald that Penn State had investigated the Lion Ambassadors for several months. As a result, “several organizational reforms” were put in place, and three students were removed from the program. 

The Lion Ambassadors, however, do not show up on the university’s mandated hazing report, which details hazing violations that were reported between Jan. 1, 2018, and Dec. 20, 2022.

The Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law — a statewide statute enacted after the death of a Penn State student who died at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity in 2017 — requires institutions of higher education to report the following violations: forcing someone to consume liquids or drugs, physical or mental harassment, and subjecting someone to sexual misconduct for the purposes of initiation or continued membership in a group.

Interested in learning about the allegations of hazing and whether they were investigated, Spotlight PA asked Penn State the following questions:

1. Did the conduct of the Lion Ambassadors not meet the reporting threshold to be included on the university’s hazing report? 

2. What were the findings of the university’s investigation that led it to not publicly note the investigation and action taken against the Lion Ambassadors?

Penn State responded in an email:

“Accusations regarding inappropriate conduct within Lion Ambassadors were investigated from late April to mid-August 2021, during which time all internal events and social events within the program were suspended,” Wyatt DuBois, director of university public relations, wrote in an email. “The Office of Student Conduct and the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response were involved, per our practices, and responded directly to those affected in this matter to discuss allegations and provide support resources. As a result, several organizational reforms were put into place and the Alumni Association arranged follow-up sessions to track progress in October 2021, December 2021 and April 2022. Additionally, the Alumni Association removed some students from the program and they were subject to conduct processes and discipline, which are confidential.

“The university’s practice is to report on student organizations that are subject to the Code of Conduct. Lion Ambassadors is an organization affiliated with the Penn State Alumni Association and is not a recognized university student organization, so the organization is not subject to formal student organization conduct procedures. However, information from the Student Conduct investigation was shared with the Alumni Association and, as mentioned above, changes were implemented and behaviors addressed. Again, investigations involving individual students are considered confidential.”

Read the full Transparency Tracker here.

Wyatt Massey, Penn State Investigative Reporter

“Not one police department or police chief in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania wants to mistakenly hire a law enforcement officer with a history of egregious misconduct. We need to take those actions to ensure it doesn’t happen.”

—Carbon County Commissioner Chris Lukasevich speaking during a January public meeting, advocating for including probation officers in the state’s police misconduct database 
» NEW INVESTIGATION: How anxiety came to dominate the big business of medical marijuana cards in Pennsylvania. Plus: A behind-the-scenes look at Spotlight PA's analysis of 1 million medical marijuana certifications.

» Pa. takes over troubled mortgage relief program from contractor after complaints, backlogs

» Penn State University has not reimbursed Pa. State Police for security at Proud Boys event

» Some Pa. courts are excluding probation officers from requirements under police misconduct law

» HOW SPECIAL ELECTIONS WORK: Join us Thursday, Feb. 9 from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom for a free panel on how special elections work, the results of the Feb. 7 elections, and why they matter. This event will be the first of our “How Harrisburg Works” series where we break down how the state legislature works (or doesn’t). Register for the event here and submit your questions to
A January snow blankets the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, courtesy of D. Howe Photography.

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» CDT: Former PSU professor sues alleging discrimination
» NCPA: Pa. EMA map details biggest threats to each county 
» CDT: PSU, professor settle federal racial discrimination lawsuit

» WPSU: Historic Huntingdon theater for sale
» SC: Penn State Student Affairs VP steps down
» AM: Probation officers deny claims in suit
» LHE: Punxsutawney Phil predicts more winter
Want us to list your event? Send it to us.

» Feb. 2-5: Check out the Rose Bowl Trophy on display at the Penn State All-Sports Museum.

» Feb. 3: Step Afrika! — "the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping" — performs at the Weis Center for the Performing Arts at Bucknell.

» Feb. 4: Bring the whole family to Baby Rave at 3 Dots Downtown.

» Feb. 4: The free Colyer 'Sno Big Deal 10K at Colyer Lake kicks off the Tussey Teasers series.

» Feb. 4: See a free screening of Citizen Ashe, a documentary about tennis great and activist Arthur Ashe, at The State Theatre.

» Feb. 5: The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State presents In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson.
An anagram is a word, phrase, or name formed by rearranging the letters of another. For example, "spotlight" also forms "stoplight."

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