You’re knowin’ where it’s goin’. So goes the adage, and wealthy donors to universities are no exception. The Princeton/Robertson case, involving misuse of a massive sum of cash endowed to the university by the family of the A&P supermarket chain, is an example, and one which is being closely watched by college administrators–it will determine how much they can ignore givers’ wishes–and philanthropists. The facts of the old battle seem to be clear: The Robertsons gave $35 million (it has now ballooned to $620 million) to Princeton in 1961 so that it may expand the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs to train students for government service, especially in foreign affairs. Some of that money went to payroll, research in other departments, and building expenses.
The family says it has proof that Princeton mis-spent up to $207 million. Princeton answered the charge today. The anticipation of the response went something along the lines of, “Oh, this is going to be a good one.”
And it was. Princeton claims that, no, it has not spent the monies in derogation of the Robertsons’ wishes. In fact, it underspent the money:
The university now contends foundation money was not used and that, in fact, the school overcredited the foundation $100,000 for the program.
Indeed, the school asserts that over the 45-year history of the endowment, the university has charged the foundation some $235 million less than it could have for legitimate expenses.
Of course, whether Princeton spent more or less is immaterial. The accusation addresses how it spent the money, and audits show that money was indeed spent. The university is also, it appears, throwing in personal attacks for good measure:
[Princeton’s] brief said, “Robertson has demonstrated that he is no longer qualified to serve as a trustee of the Robertson Foundation — an issue the Delaware Court of Chancery may have to address in the future.”
Philanthropist accuses Princeton of spending his money on programs not allowed under the terms of the donation, and Princeton responds: 1) But we didn’t spend all of the money and 2) We’d like to depose you as trustee, now.
Curious to hear what everyone thinks.