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PSU faculty protest for racial justice in Old Main

Plus: Join us TONIGHT for a free virtual event on transparency in education

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

March 14, 2024
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Inside this edition: Penn State professors protest university’s diversity policies after Spotlight PA report, a free panel on transparency in education, and local governments want long-term state funding for cybersecurity. ☀️ It’s Sunshine Week.
Wyatt Massey / Spotlight PA
On Monday, a group of Penn State professors gathered in Penn State’s administrative center to protest the university’s diversity policies, which have become a sore point among faculty and students following the cancellation of the Center for Racial Justice in 2022.

The five professors stood between two of Old Main’s first floor columns, in view of the university president’s office and before a crowd of about a dozen people. Gary King, a professor of behavioral health who helped organize the event, told onlookers that Penn State maintains a “deliberate indifference” to addressing racism.

“There is a yawning gap between the university proclamations and its practices when it comes to racial justice,” King said. “President Bendapudi and her administration talk the talk, but they do not walk the walk.”

During the half-hour protest, each professor read selections from various civil rights leaders, including Fannie Lou Hamer, Frederick Douglass, and Martin Luther King Jr. About 20 minutes into the event, two Penn State campus police officers entered the administration building. A third officer watched from the second-story mezzanine.

In February, Spotlight PA reported that university leaders from various Penn State departments cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from diversity projects the administration would later describe as “promising” in a pledge for further investment. While reporting that story, the newsroom also revealed that two of the projects — the Center for Disability Studies and the Center on Engineering and Social Justice — did not exist.

King told the crowd that the Spotlight PA stories revealed an “embarrassing attempt by the administration to extol its diversity efforts by highlighting projects that do not exist, except as figments in the minds of university administrators.”

Tension remains between the administration and some faculty roughly 18 months after Bendapudi canceled the Center for Racial Justice, a key university commitment following the nationwide 2020 protests against racism.

Penn State leaders, including the president, have defended the administration’s diversity plan. In response to previous questions from Spotlight PA, a university spokesperson said Penn State is “focused on a broader definition of diversity that encompasses many more stakeholders and supporters.” The spokesperson pointed to the hiring of support roles for LGBTQ students and a dashboard of student and employee demographics as examples of progress under the plan.

A dashboard that conveys existing demographics is not progress toward racial justice, Chris Dancy, an associate professor of engineering, said at the protest.

Another gathering is planned for noon on March 27 in Old Main.

“We will continue to protest,” Dancy said. “We are sick and tired of statements, of commitments that are devoid of substance.”

Wyatt Massey, Penn State investigative reporter
From now through March 23, Spotlight PA is celebrating SUNSHINE WEEK! Sunshine Week is a time when journalists across the country come together to call for greater transparency in government. This is a vital fundraising campaign that helps support our mission through this year and beyond.

As a nonprofit, Spotlight PA’s unique investigative and public-service journalism depends on your support. Make a tax-deductible gift to Spotlight PA today in support of Sunshine Week and it will be DOUBLED thanks to a generous matching grant from our friends at The Benter Foundation!

You can also give via PayPal or Venmo, or send a check to: Spotlight PA, PO Box 11728, Harrisburg, PA 17108.
» Pennsylvania is flush with surplus cash, but it still faces a looming budget problem

» Philadelphia voting commission shakeup creates bad optics during big election year

» Pa. local governments want long-term state money for cybersecurity as federal grant fills the gap

» Pa. election 2024: A complete guide to the primary candidates for auditor general

» Editor’s Note: Secrecy still pervades Pennsylvania state government, but Spotlight PA is fighting back

» Pennsylvania treasurer candidates spar over unclaimed property issue

» What to know about Shapiro’s proposed $10.3M agriculture innovation program

» Pa. Game Commission won’t renew controversial contract with lobbying firm run by former top lawmaker

» EDUCATION EMPOWERMENT: Join us TONIGHT from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a roundtable discussion on transparency in education, and how you can hold school officials accountable. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
The ice on the lake at Black Moshannon State Park in Centre County is melting via Don H.

Have a north-central Pennsylvania photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
Introducing Spotlight PA’s “All Sun, No Shade” beach towel! This towel is now available to celebrate Sunshine Week, a time when we mark the importance of government transparency. Sunshine Week ends on March 23, so make sure to place your order ASAP before supply runs out!

Proceeds benefit Spotlight PA’s nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism that gets results for Pennsylvania.
» PennLive: Fired PSU football doctor’s lawsuit results in mistrial
» NCPA: DCNR to continue ATV trail connector in northern tier
» WPSU: DuBois City Council moves toward firing Suplizio
» Mirror: Blair County plans to hire new solicitor
» Wellsboro Gazette: Costs for school project climb to nearly $90M
» CDT: Public meetings can be recorded, despite what Milesburg says
Want us to list your event? Send it to us.

» March 14: Cassidy Hutchinson, Jan. 6 whistleblower, speaks at Penn State, in Centre County, about her 2023 memoir, Enough.

» March 15-17: The Central PA Outdoor & Sports Show takes place at the Clearfield County fairgrounds.

» March 16-17: Travel to farms across Potter and Tioga Counties for the 20th annual Maple Weekend.

» March 19: Folk musician Rhiannon Giddens performs at Eisenhower Auditorium at Penn State.

» March 19: The Osagie family hosts “Family Fun” night and dinner to support the scholarship they established in memory of Osaze Osagie. The event takes place from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at the Access Church in State College, Centre County.

» March 19: The Williamsport Symphony Orchestra presents Wild West Adventures: A Night of Cowboy Music at the Community Arts Center in Lycoming County.
💗 Love Spotlight PA State College? Want to help us grow? Become a volunteer! Email talkofthetown@spotlightpa.org for more information.
An anagram is a word, phrase, or name formed by rearranging the letters of another. For example, “spotlight” also forms “stoplight.”

Decode the anagram and send your answer to talkofthetown@spotlightpa.org. We’ll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA State College swag.

Good luck!

Last week’s answer: Swaps

Congrats to Carol G., who will receive Spotlight PA State College swag! Others who answered correctly: Kevin M., Linda A., Frederick H., Rick W., Susan B., Linda M., Susan N., Don H., Claudia W., Leslie B., Rena Z., and Leann T.
Do you have events, community shoutouts, questions about our region, or tips on stories that we should pursue? Email our team.
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