Penn State Old Main Bell Tower.
Photo by George Chriss//WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
By: KATHERINE WATT
Corporate Penn State’s fortress of secrecy and whistleblower intimidation is starting to crack. It’s an excellent development.
In a June 4 letter to the Centre Daily Times, Barry Fenchak wrote about an incident at the June 2 Penn State Town Hall meeting. An audience member “raised the issue of university employees’ fear of retaliation for reporting wrongdoing. In his response, Vice President of Finance and Business, David Gray, acknowledged what the recent university-wide employee survey confirmed: ‘that particular issue — sadly — was most deeply rooted within finance and business. ”
Fenchak pointed out that Gray is responsible for several programs in addition to F&B, including the Office of Physical Plant (OPP), Human Resources, Diversity and Ethics. Gray is perfectly positioned to support and encourage whistleblowers.
“Fear of retaliation for reporting concerns is also real and justified for
staff and faculty — non-tenure line and tenure line — across the university.” He concluded: “At Penn State, retaliation is not isolated; it is systemic. It is part of a suite of condign ‘management tools’ that are deeply embedded in this very hierarchical institution's DNA." - L.S. Finn
But instead of acting decisively to set up and enforce whistleblower protections, he simply laments the sad situation for which he is primarily responsible. It brings to mind the maxim attributed to Albert Einstein: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don't rule out malice.”
Further evidence for the malice theory of whistleblower intimidation is the February appointment of Margaret Gray, David Gray’s wife, as Penn State’s new Director of Local Government and Community Relations. Between the two roles, they personify Penn State’s corporate strategy: control institutional revenue streams from student tuition, public subsidies, donations, and endowment investments, and stifle or manipulate all attempts at public oversight by local governments and civilians.
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