Heard on Campus: Terry Mutchler at the Penn State Forum

"There’s a difference between privacy and secrecy, and it took me many, many years to understand that difference. I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with privacy. I think that when there comes a choice between privacy and secrecy, I think that it’s a balance. And I also think there’s a major difference between secrecy and confidentiality."

-- Penn State alumna Terry Mutchler, head of the nation's first transparency practice group at Pepper Hamilton LLP, spoke on “The Politics of Secrecy: From Lion’s Paw to Pennsylvania Government” on Feb. 10 in the Nittany Lion Inn on Penn State's University Park campus.

"Let me just be clear about this, there are crazy people on both sides of the open government equation, and I feel with my work in the Office of Open Records I’ve met them all. On one hand, you have citizens and members of the media who are convinced that every public official is a criminal. ... On the other hand, you have public officials who don’t like the public."

"There was a fellow in the central part of Pennsylvania, the south central part of Pennsylvania, who filed 300 right-to-know requests in about three months, and what I wanted to say to him was, umm, ‘get a hobby.’ What I realized was this was his hobby."

Mutchler also talked about her relationship with Penny Severns, a member of the Illinois Senate at the same time when Mutchler was a reporter covering that state’s government, and the fact they kept their romantic relationship a secret. Severns died of cancer on Feb. 21, 1998.

"But what I’ve come to understand in this failure is: What is courage after all? Isn’t it really doing the right thing and doing it in real time? And I did neither the right thing and I certainly didn’t do it in real time."

The next Penn State Forum will feature Shirley M. Malcom, head of education and human resources at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, on “Science, Technology and Possibility,” on March 22 in the President’s Hall at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel.

The Penn State Forum Speaker Series is open to the general public. Tickets for the Penn State Forum are $21 and include a buffet lunch. Tickets may be purchased through the Penn State id+ Office, 20 HUB-Robeson Center. For questions, call 814-865-7590 or email idcard@psu.edu. For more information and a complete list of speakers, visit http://sites.psu.edu/forum/.

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Last Updated February 11, 2016