College buys $219K Chinese conference table

AP News
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Posted: Nov 24, 2014 1:32 PM

UNION, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey lawmaker is calling for a review of a state university's purchase of a $219,000 custom-built conference table from a company in China, where it has a campus it hopes to expand.

Kean University did not put the project out to bid and picked a company in Shanghai, The Record (http://bit.ly/1xThtNo ) newspaper reported. The northern New Jersey school recently opened a branch campus in China that university President Dawood Farahi hopes to expand.

"Whether or not this is legal, it's certainly not ethical and it's a waste of taxpayer money," Assemblyman Joe Cryan said in a statement. "The time to reform higher education in New Jersey is long past. 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. So do the students and families struggling to afford a higher education."

Cryan called on the state attorney general to review the waivers that Kean used to buy the table without putting out a bid. Kean told The Record that the table falls under the professional creative services category that doesn't require bids.

"It is small-minded to focus on the university buying a $200,000 table," Farahi told the newspaper. "Why not? Why not?"

The 22-foot circular table seats 23 people and is made of oak with cherry veneer. It features data ports, gooseneck microphones, an illuminated world map and a motorized, two-tiered glass turntable. There also is a power manager unit with an 8-channel power output independent socket to reduce and restrain surge impact, and a separate equipment cabinet to house the electronic equipment

Farahi said the table would have cost $500,000 if made in the United States.

There are 880 Chinese students at Kean's campus in Wenzhou, which is being financed by the Chinese government. Farahi said it will operate an exchange program allowing New Jersey students to travel to China at little cost.

About 16,000 students attend Kean, a public school in the township of Union, which is about 15 miles west of Manhattan.

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Information from: The Record (Woodland Park, N.J.), http://www.northjersey.com