Time to Shine Light on UConn Foundation

by Christopher O'Brien
Sen. Joe Markley

Sen. Joe Markley

By State Senator Joe Markley

             UConn is a Connecticut institution in every sense of the word. It is a top public university, and parents in the state save their entire lives to send their children there. Unfortunately, as tuition continues to rise, the school nears a tipping point. If the price goes up any more, most of the academically qualified students in Connecticut will be priced right out of a UConn education. For this reason, the voting public should be able to scrutinize all aspects of the school’s finances so waste can be detected, spending controlled, and costs lowered.

As it stands, the school reports all of its budget records to the state. This is proper since UConn receives hundreds of millions of dollars each year from taxpayers to help keep the lights on. These funds are fully and openly accounted for. The problem is, many of the school’s financial operations are funneled through the UConn Foundation—a private fundraising apparatus. These monies aren’t easy to access. The people of Connecticut have a right to know exactly how much money is coming into the Foundation, where it comes from, and how it is spent.

            Legislation dealing with this matter is more important now than ever, since the school recently dissolved its alumni association and shifted that defunct organization’s fundraising and outreach responsibilities to the UConn Foundation.

For the past few legislative sessions, bills designed to open up the books on the UConn Foundation died at the committee level. This year, several bills have been proposed to make the workings of the Foundation more transparent. Connecticut citizens who are supporting the school have a right to know how the state’s largest university acquires–and spends—a large chunk of its money.

Some of the goods and services billed to the UConn Foundation have raised eyebrows.

While the average UConn student was taking out loans and working a side job to pay for tuition, the Foundation paid Hillary Clinton $250 thousand to give a speech that lasted an hour. In 2012, the Foundation paid $4,500 for Governor Dannel P. Malloy to participate in an economic summit in Davos, Switzerland. The Foundation picks up the tab for professor’s sabbatical salaries and travel expenses. Keeping in perspective the struggles of the average UConn student and family in Connecticut, does it seem right that students and taxpayers cannot even take a long peek at the Foundation’s books?

            It is entirely possible that the UConn Foundation is running a tight ship, and the excesses highlighted above are exceptions to the rule. Notwithstanding, the public has a right to know.

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