Editorials from around Pennsylvania

Editorials from around Pennsylvania



The contrasts could not be more striking.

Here’s what University of Oklahoma President David Boren said when members of the SAE fraternity were caught on video reciting an appallingly racist chant:

“To those who have misused their free speech in such a reprehensible way, I have a message for you. You are disgraceful. You have violated all that we stand for. You should not have the privilege of calling yourselves “Sooners.” Real Sooners believe in equal opportunity. Real Sooners treat all people with respect. Real Sooners love each other and take care of each other like family members. Effective immediately, all ties and affiliations between the university and the local SAE chapter are hereby severed. … All of us will redouble our efforts to create the strongest sense of family and community. We vow that we will be an example to the entire country of how to deal with this issue. There must be a zero tolerance for racism everywhere in our nation.”

And here’s what a Penn State University spokesman said when it was revealed that a bunch of numbskull members of Kappa Delta Rho had been suspended for a year amid a police investigation into allegations that members of the fraternity used private, invitation-only Facebook pages to post photos of nude and partly nude women.

“State College Police and Penn State administrators continue to investigate the reports surrounding Kappa Delta Rho (KDR) fraternity. The Penn State Interfraternity Council, to which KDR belongs, has suspended the chapter’s activities. Following suspension of the chapter by the Interfraternity Council on March 3, the national KDR fraternity has announced the local chapter will be suspended for one year and will be reorganized. This means that all chapter social and related activities are suspended.”

Where’s the statement in support of the young women who were allegedly victimized?

This action is being taken in response to the chapter allegedly hosting private Facebook pages where highly inappropriate photographs were posted of activities and events that are in direct violation of the standards and values of a recognized student organization at Penn State. The evidence offered by the Facebook postings is appalling, offensive and inconsistent with the University community’s values and expectations.

We are confident that the various investigative and review processes, both internal and external to the University, will determine responsibility in this case. The University will hold accountable any groups and individuals found responsible. Discipline and accountability for Penn State’s fraternities can occur on several levels since these are private organizations. Such investigations are conducted in partnership with fraternity nationals, chapter alumni boards, and the Penn State Interfraternity Council, as well as local law enforcement.”

Now take a moment to remember which of the two schools was at the center of the worst sexual abuse scandal in the nation’s history.

Take a moment to remember which of the schools was the subject of a Justice Department probe into a “record” number of sexual assaults on campus.

Yes, there is a judicial process that must take place. Yes, these are allegations.

But as university officials should have learned by now —had drummed into their heads by three years of horrible national headlines — how one responds to allegations of sexual misconduct is just as important as what one actually does about it.

Speaking to Penn State’s Faculty Senate, University President Eric Barron offered only the most tepid of condemnations, saying, “It’s simply unacceptable. And it didn’t take long for the national organization to say sorry and put the chapter on suspension.”

Where’s the outrage? Where’s the vow to work tirelessly to root out this kind of evil on campus?

Where’s the statement in support of the young women who were allegedly victimized? If proven true, these allegations appear to be sexual assaults against these young women.

Reading Boren’s statement, his solidarity with the aggrieved students is palpable, as is his anger.

Leave it to a Penn State student to recognize the obvious: “It’s frustrating. This is a great university. I’m proud to say I went here,” Michael Porter, a senior from New Jersey, told PennLive’s Ivey DeJesus. “It’s just unfortunate. It’s just disappointing.”

The reaction from university officials? Anodyne legal language that reads like bureaucrats covering their posteriors once again.

Will they never learn?

— PennLive.com



Bill Adolph is not exactly doing backflips over new Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget and tax plan.

That could be a problem for the governor.

Adolph, R-165, of Springfield, is the majority chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, through which any fiscal plan for Pennsylvania must pass.

“This is a gigantic tax increase, OK? A gigantic tax increase,” Adolph matter-of-factly stated this week during the first week of hearings on the controversial spending plan. “I do believe the PIT (personal income tax) and the sales tax is on the middle class. And the governor picked and chose where he sent the money to.”

Wolf and state Democrats instead say it’s a matter of balancing and fairness. They stress that what people lose in increase in the income and sales tax are balanced by decreases in property taxes.

The Democrat who showed incumbent Tom Corbett the door after just one term — something that has never been done in Pennsylvania — wants to use the increased revenue to fix the state’s education funding mess, which was exacerbated during Corbett’s four years, and at the same time tame out-of-control property taxes.

In the meantime, school officials, students and families in Pennsylvania wait. They wait for someone in Harrisburg to give them a fair shake, to rectify the uneven playing field that penalizes them and offers them a lesser education for no other reason than their zip code.

Actually, they’re doing a bit more than waiting.

Representatives from six Pennsylvania school districts were in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg this week to state their case.

They filed suit against the state and the Department of Education stating flatly that Pennsylvania is failing to adequately fund public schools and is derelict in its duty as spelled out in the state’s Constitution.

The suit claims state officials have violated the Education and Equal Protection clauses of the state Constitution by drastically underfunding many Pennsylvania districts, usually those in economically distressed areas that don’t have the tax base to draw on for increased revenue, as kids just a few miles away do.

Joe Bruni knows a little bit about Pennsylvania’s uneven playing field when it comes to education funding.

Bruni is the superintendent of the William Penn School District, serving students in Aldan, Colwyn, Darby Borough, East Lansdowne, Lansdowne and Yeadon.

Anything strike you as familiar about those zip codes? Yes, most of them face serious economic challenges, and lack a tax base they can draw on to increase revenue. Instead, the onus falls increasingly on home owners via the bane of Pennsylvania – the property tax.

Corbett and his education officials were initially named in the suit. Since they have been whisked out of office, the new acting Secretary of Education Pedro Cortes and House Speaker Rep. Mike, Turzai, R-Allegheny, have taken their place. Both sides were in court last week, with the plaintiffs arguing the suit should be tossed because it is the General Assembly, not the courts, that have the power to set educational policy and how those policies will be funded. That’s part of the problem.

For years the state has watched as its share of education funding dropped. Back in 2011, a costing-out study sought by Gov. Ed Rendell and the Legislature actually made recommendations on how to right the situation. It came to the conclusion that education funding was unfair, and failed to adequately address the needs of students in struggling areas. It suggested more money be directed to those districts, targeting a number of factors, including need, income, number of special education students and other need-based parameters. It was abandoned after Corbett took office. He argued it wasn’t working and the state simply could not afford it.

We hope the court allows this suit to go forward.

— The (Hanover) Evening Sun



Sorry, but this one is going to sting.

Another ranking of the U.S. cities where people lead unhealthy lives puts the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metro area near the top of the unenviable list, behind only Mobile, Alabama; Great Falls, Montana; and best-of-the-worst Lafayette, Louisiana.

The analysis, conducted by badcredit.org and billed as the “Most Overindulgent Metropolitan Areas,” took into account alcohol consumption, smoking habits, obesity and consumer debt. Bottom line: We in Northeastern Pennsylvania are generally a tubby, heart attack-and-cancer-prone people.

Sadly, this unflattering portrayal of our region’s population only reaffirms what other, formal health studies have concluded: Too many of us pick up nasty tobacco habits early in life and routinely consume fatty foods (more kielbasa, anyone?) and excess alcohol, later paying painful consequences — including the likelihood of premature death.

Of course, there is an alternative.

“Small lifestyle changes can make a difference,” says Cynthia Mailloux, director of nursing at Misericordia University in Dallas Township. That sentiment was the theme of an editorial printed last April, after the area’s annual Community Health Needs Assessment forum, in which we outlined the basics: eat more fruits and vegetables, move your body more, see a doctor regularly. (You can connect with overeating support groups, smoking cessation programs and other social services by calling Help Line at 2-1-1.)

Beyond those personal choices, however, consider the health consequences of our region’s culture — which supplies a steady stream of cues that can guide daily behaviors.

Do our institutions and community leaders consistently promote moderate alcohol intake and nutritious diets? Or, do our Little League concession stands dish out only greasy or sugary treats, while our nonprofit fundraisers revolve around a well-stocked bar?

What message is sent when the United Way selects as its chairman the head of the local casino — a business whose sole purpose is to separate people from their money while encouraging them to not move for hours, and comforting them with readily available alcohol, food and access to smoking areas? Why hasn’t an asparagus festival taken root locally, but we dedicate one weekend to celebrating smoked meats?

The image Northeastern Pennsylvania projects today is a far cry from, say, Eugene, Oregon, where running shoe and apparel firm Nike got its start and fit folks spend their free time jogging and cycling. Yet it’s not as if Wilkes-Barre and Scranton residents don’t have ample opportunities for exercise; a paved walking trail slices through the Wyoming Valley, as does a river suitable for kayaking.

Is it possible an ailing culture is killing us? And, if so, are we ready to accept the painful truth and make adjustments?

— The (Wilkes-Barre) Times Leader



Many Americans lost all perspective last year in the face of an Ebola outbreak in West Africa that posed virtually no threat to the United States. It is remarkable, given the near-hysteria over a distant viral contagion, that the country continues to maintain policies that foster the growth of deadly bacteria.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Ebola cases were reported in the United States last year — eight of which originated outside the country and two of which proved fatal.

As concern about Ebola mounted, federal and state governments did nothing to diminish a far greater health threat — overuse of antibiotics. According to a study by the CDC, reported last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, a single deadly strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria infected 500,000 Americans in 2011 and killed at least 29,000 of them — 29,000.

The culprit is Clostridium dificile, a bacterium that has mutated over many generations to become highly resistant to antibiotics that used to kill it. It has been able to do so because of overuse of antibiotics in agriculture and over-prescription of antibiotics in medicine.

Actually, people using antibiotics are particularly susceptible to infection because antibiotics do not discriminate. They attack all bacteria in the body, including those that otherwise would attack C. dificile.

“Antibiotics are clearly driving this whole problem,” said Clifford McDonald, CDC senior adviser for science and integrity.

Final data has not yet been analyzed for 2012, but the CDC projected that the infection rates probably will prove to be worse than in 2011.

Just as clearly, lawmakers and regulators across the country must mandate far more limited use of antibiotics in agriculture, and the medical community must accelerate measures to prevent the spread of the bacterium in hospitals and nursing homes.

The (Hazleton) Standard-Speaker



Ninety-three percent of Americans listen to music more than 25 hours a week, according to Nielsen data. But in continuing bad news for the nation’s symphony orchestras, fewer than 2 percent of them are listening to classical music.

This — not ticket prices or parking woes — may be the main reason the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, one of the region’s most valued institutions, struggles to fill the 2,676 seats at Heinz Hall. But the cost and hassle of getting to one of those seats is also a deterrent, as is the perception that the symphony is boring, the PSO learned recently from focus groups. The findings illuminate the challenges the PSO faces as its audience ages and shrinks. They also suggest solutions.

While the PSO has not suffered the catastrophic decline that forced orchestras in Philadelphia, Syracuse and Louisville to declare bankruptcy, attendance has plunged since the 1970s, when it sold more than 200,000 tickets to its classical-concert series, compared with 96,610 last year. Last season, just 57 percent of seats at Heinz Hall were sold; the rest were given away or unfilled.

To learn why, the PSO hired a North Carolina firm to interview people who are typical of symphony goers (white, married, middle-aged and middle- to upper-income) but who don’t attend. Their responses may be useful in attracting that demographic, but the symphony also needs to get answers from minorities and millennials if it wants an audience for the future.

In 1937, the median age of audience members at classical concerts across the nation was 28. By 2008, it had risen to 49. The PSO is smart to aggressively recruit school-age fans; next week, for example, it will welcome hundreds of sixth-graders to Heinz Hall. And joint events with icons of pop culture — such as a concert with the Indigo Girls April 30 — should help to generate interest, too.

The problems facing orchestras are daunting, but the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra shows they can be overcome. The smallest city in the United States with a full-time orchestra, it has increased attendance by 28 percent in the past six years and it has a budget of $47 million, compared with the PSO’s $32 million.

Let’s hope the PSO can learn from the orchestras that attract more and more paying customers. Its long-term success would be music to our ears.

— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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