Kean University Floundering to Explain $219k Conference Table

conference_table

Kean University recently doled money for a conference table that most people would consider appropriate for a house.  The custom built table special ordered from china cost the university $219,000.

The table seats 23 people, has a motorized, two-tiered glass turntable and the center displays an illuminated map of the world. The table is technologically advanced, capable of connecting 60 units for conferencing, houses Bose conference speakers, and has built-in gooseneck and wireless microphones, writes NBC News.

Assemblywoman Celeste Riley, among other Democratic legislators, says that the university is clearly straying from their mission of providing affordable education to New Jersey residents.

“This is a quintessential example of the misguided priorities that are failing our students and putting college further out of reach for them,” Riley said in a statement. “The administration’s continued justification for spending well over $200,000 on a table shows it is both out-of-touch with the community it’s intended to serve and more focused on style than substance.”

Assemblyman Joseph Cryan agreed with Riley. He stated that he thought the purchase was a waste of taxpayer money and an insult to people trying to pay for college, writes Erin O’Neill for NJ.com. 

According to him, the university has a history of abuse of the process of bidding and purchasing. He has written a letter the New Jersey State Attorney General’s office requesting a review of the waivers the school received to purchase the table without undergoing bidding.

The table was purchased without competitive bidding, which is typically required for purchases made by state colleges and universities. Instead, Kean handpicked a manufacturer in China where the school recently expanded and opened a branch campus. The school hopes to strengthen its ties with the Chinese government, writes Patricia Alex for NorthJersey.com.

Local business owner Paul Downs was disappointed the school did not solicit bids. His company specializes in making custom-made multimedia conference tables much like the one Kean purchased. Downs says his company would have charged a fraction of the cost.

“We’ve made very complex tables for a lot less,” Downs said. “We’ve worked for other universities in New Jersey and didn’t get anywhere near that, not 10 percent of that.”

Harvard University, NASA and World Bank are all clients of Downs’ company that makes tables for corporate, government and education clients.  General Electric recently contracted a table from Downs that was very similar to the one Kean purchased. It came to just $61,000, but typically tables don’t even go for that much.

University President Dawood Farahi claims the table would have cost $500,000 to make in the US and says it’s “small minded” to focus on the school spending $219,000 on a table, reports CBS News.

Some students also don’t see a problem with the purchase.

“They spend enough money on school. They spend enough. We’re getting the proper education here,” said Kean sophomore Austin Davis.