Bill threatens to withhold Penn State funds over Paterno statue

Josh Moyer
Centre Daily Times

A Pennsylvania state representative introduced an amendment to a bill Tuesday that would require Penn State to provide the location — and other information — on its iconic Joe Paterno statue, if it wants to receive state funding.

Rep. Aaron Bernstine, R- Lawrence, wants to attach the amendment to Senate Bill 1283, which provides funding for Pennsylvania’s four-state related universities in Lincoln, Penn State, Pitt and Temple. In general support alone, Penn State is poised to receive more than $240 million.

Bernstine’s proposed amendment would require the university to publicly release the location of the 7-foot bronze statue, in addition to the method of storage and protection of the 900-pound sculpture. If Penn State would refuse, if the proposed amendment passes, the university would not be entitled to the state funding.

“In general, the biggest thing is that public institutions should be transparent with their assets — especially one that means so much to so many people,” Bernstine, a 2006 Penn State grad, told the CDT. “Regardless of where you stand on Coach Paterno, this is an issue and a situation where there’s no reason whatsoever that the location of this should not be known to the public that sends a significant amount of their taxpayer money” toward supporting the university.

Removed after scandal: The Joe Paterno sculpture, created in 2001, was removed from its site near Beaver Stadium in July 2012, in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal. Since then, the statue has been hidden from view and the university has refused to disclose its location.

A Penn State spokesperson declined to comment Wednesday, when asked by the CDT why the university hasn’t disclosed the statue’s location or whether they had a response to Bernstine’s proposed amendment.

The amendment comes on the heels of a week-old letter from Bernstine to new Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi, asking for both the location and condition of the statue. Bernstine said that he received a response from Penn State earlier Wednesday that simply stated the statue was in good condition — and in an undisclosed location.

“That’s just another example of a lack of transparency,” Bernstine said about the university’s response. “And it was not the question that was asked.”

State legislators are expected to vote on the amendment, and whether it makes it into the final bill, next week. It wasn’t immediately known if the amendment had any considerable support in the General Assembly, as the topic has reportedly not been a focus during ongoing budget talks.

The state’s budget is due midnight June 30.