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.
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.
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.