The Bigger the University, the Bigger the Game

by Jane S. Shaw

Johns Hopkins University is the latest university to undermine donor intent, if the facts reported in the Washington Post recently are correct.

The family of the former owners of the 138-acre Belward Farm in Gaithersburg, Md., have sued the university for failing to abide by its agreement. In 1989, the family sold the land to the school at a large discount (the bulk of the land was a charitable donation). The understanding at the time was that it would be used for research and development. According to a press release from the family, 30 acres would be developed commercially, and it was.

In 1997, the family agreed to let the university use some of the acreage for a satellite campus for Johns Hopkins, but the university wants much more — including a commercial office park with retail stores and residences. From the Post article by Jonathan O’Connell:

[Tim Newell, a family member who is among the litigants] said that in 1997, the university and the family had agreed on a plan to build a 1.4 million-square-foot satellite campus for the university on Belward Farm. Now the plan is for 4.7 million square feet, which county officials envision as the anchor to a “Science City.”

The county has already approved the expansion, according to the Post.

For previous outrageous violations of donor intent, see Martin Morse Wooster’s paper, “Games Universities Play: And How Donors Can Avoid Them.” One first step: Never trust a university with your land or money.

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