I have no problem if Gov. Ed Rendell wants to call Penn State a private school. That certainly would seem his motive in initially denying us higher education stimulus dollars, until some local legislators protested the snub.
Sure, Penn State was formed through a charter with the state and federal legislation signed by President Abraham Lincoln, but times change, right?
If that's the case, a few other things will have to change, too.
First off, representation. It doesn't seem fitting for a private university to have the state governor sitting on its board of trustees. But indeed, that's a privilege granted by Penn State's charter to Pennsylvania's governor since 1855. Better resign, Mr. Rendell.
So should the Secretaries of Conservation and Natural Resources, Education and Agriculture, all of whom have seats on the board. And don't forget the six board members the governor selects, including the university's only student trustee.
That comes out to 10 government-affiliated trustees, about 30 percent of the entire board. How did we hotshot private schoolers overlook that for 150 years?
As a private school, Penn State could also save a bundle on its agricultural cooperative extension program, which provides assistance to farmers in every county at a cost to the university of about $32 million a year.
I don't see any other private schools operating more than 60 offices on a non-profit basis. Maybe those 4-H high schoolers can go to Harrisburg if they want an education in farm animals.
Then there's the matter of the difference between our in-state and out-of-state tuition, a queer policy that would seem to give an advantage to the residents of Pennsylvania. Ditto for our Commonwealth Campus system, which is curiously contained to the boundaries of our state.
Sadly, Penn State's already spent some time and effort on non-private matters that the newly privatized university probably wishes it could get back. For instance, the $276,000 survey of Pennsylvania public school curricula it undertook for the Department of Education. Or all those new highway signs it tested out for the Department of Transportation.
And lastly, that name, The Pennsylvania State University. The "State" has got to go.
Let's get serious. This isn't the first time Penn State has been called a private school by a politician, and it won't be the last. The university is an easy target: It's big, largely removed from state bureaucracy and wealthy enough to attract its share of rhetoric.
But that doesn't change the fact that this university was created through an act of this country's government to serve the sons and daughters of this state.
Politicians, you can belittle our spending habits and grouse over our new buildings. You can even cut our appropriation.
But don't call us a private school. Not unless you're prepared to make some serious changes in a relationship that has lasted for a century and a half.
It isn't "Let's Go State" for nothing.