Phi Beta Cons

‘Table-gate” — Wasting Donor Money, Part I

Over the course of a career, I have participated in meetings in many conference rooms, most of them quite modest but some of them finely appointed.

But nothing comes close to the $250,000 conference table that Kean University purchased from a Chinese supplier, without competitive bidding and without the prior approval of the Board of Trustees. A look at the photo in the Philadelphia Inquirer article will give a sense of the  grandeur that the University has achieved in its conference center. 

But hold on here. This is a public university, dependent upon student tuition, government support, and donor largesse to stay afloat. How can its administration possibly justify a conference table costing a quarter of a million dollars? The chairs alone must have cost a small fortune.

Nobody needs a conference room this elaborate. In fact, the participants are so far across the table from each other that its hard to know how meaningful dialog could possibly occur. They’re not signing the Paris Peace Accords here; they’re just having a meeting.

Administrators at higher education institutions too often just don’t get it. There is a real world out there, and the non-profit sector has no business spending hard won donor money on such extravagances. If I were an alumnus of Kean University, my annual fund contributions would certainly now go elsewhere.

Vic Brown had a thirty-year career in the chemical industry with FMC Corporation, where he held senior positions and worked internationally in sales, marketing, manufacturing, information technology and procurement.

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