New Jersey lawmakers have called for a criminal investigation of Kean University, following its $219,000 purchase of a custom conference table built in China.
“Whether or not this is legal, it’s certainly not ethical and it’s a waste of taxpayer money,” New Jersey state Assemblyman Joe Cryan said. “I don’t need a study to know a university shouldn’t be spending up to $219,000 for a conference table. I already know it’s wrong.”
Cryan called on the state attorney general to review waivers Kean used to buy the table without putting out a bid, though according to Kean, the table falls under the professional creative services category that doesn’t require a bid. Cryan added that it’s an extra insult that the school purchased the table from China instead of an American vendor.
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The Record pointed out that the amount budgeted for the table could buy a small house in the working-class township of Union, where Kean is located.
In response to the criticism from Cryan, Kean President Dawood Farahi, who earns about $300,000 each year and took home a $200,000 bonus last year, said it was “small-minded” to focus on the school buying such an expensive conference table.
“Why not?” Farahi responded. “Why not? Why not?”
Farahi added that the table would help foster a better relationship with the university’s recently opened satellite campus in China.
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The 22-foot table is made of oak with a cherry veneer. It features data ports, gooseneck microphones, an illuminated world map and a motorized glass turntable. It will be housed in the recently built $40 million Green Lane Building, which houses the school’s new architectural school – a controversial program, given the state’s already well-respected architectural program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.