Kean University has so far paid $ 219,000 for this 22-foot conference table.
The head of the State Assembly’s higher education committee today criticized Kean University for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a bespoke conference table with electronic equipment from a company in China, calling the purchase exorbitant and an emblem of misplaced priorities.
Central to criticism from Assembly woman Celeste Riley (D-Cumberland) is a 22-foot oak multimedia conference table adorned with mosaic artwork and stainless steel decorations that seats 23 people. and the ability to conference with other people from over two a dozen locations around the world. The table is in a conference center on the top floor of a newly opened college building on the school’s campus in Union Township.
The price of the table and accompanying electronic equipment is $ 219,000, according to the university, which contracted with Chinese company Shanghai Rongma Office Furniture for the table without submitting the project to a call for tender. ‘offers.
While officials at Kean University have defended the purchase, Riley and other Democratic lawmakers say it shows an administration deviating from its core mission of providing affordable education to New Jersey residents.
“This is a prime example of the misguided priorities that are failing our students and putting the university even further out of reach for them,” Riley said in a statement. “The administration’s continued justification for spending over $ 200,000 on a table shows that it is both disconnected from the community it is intended to serve and more focused on style than substance.”
Kean University spokeswoman Marsha McCarthy said the university had received a waiver to acquire the table, conference equipment and a detached console containing additional equipment for the conference center on the 6th floor of the Green Lane University Building which opened in January. An initial waiver, McCarthy said, covered approximately $ 150,000 in costs. A second waiver was obtained to make changes that brought the total price up to $ 219,000, McCarthy said, but that price is dependent on the exchange rate.
The price includes the cost of the table, mosaic artwork and motorized two-level turntable, according to McCarthy, as well as a “smart conference system,” 23 gooseneck microphones, two wireless microphones, four built-in speakers. Bose conference speakers, five output panels, a power management unit and a separate equipment cabinet to contain a feedback suppressor, equalizer and amplifier.
McCarthy said the price also included lighting, as well as the cost of designing, building, delivering and installing what she calls a conference center, not a conference table.
McCarthy said Kean University President Dawood Farahi, who led efforts to open a high school campus in Wenzhou, China, was out of state this week and was not available for an interview.
Farahi told The Record, which first reported the purchase, that the school saved money by purchasing from a Chinese company.
Assembly member Joseph Cryan (D-Union), however, called the purchase unethical and “a waste of taxpayer money.”
While some in the custom conference table industry questioned the price, others said it didn’t seem completely unreasonable.
Although the university provided a list of the electronics included in the price, they said there was no breakdown of the estimate as the table and related equipment were all included in one price. .
Paul Downs, owner of a Bridgeport, Pa.-Based custom shop, said today it was difficult to provide an estimate without further details on what exactly was in the table.
Still, Downs said he looked at what was included in the equipment and the cost seemed too high. “We built similar tables,” he said, “for a lot less money.”
Just three miles from Kean University in Irvington is Arnold Furniture Manufacturers, Inc. Mark Lipka, the managing director, said he can see the $ 219,000 prize “being in the stadium once you add the wood, metal, glass, mechanics, and electronic components.
But Lipka said he wanted Arnold Furniture to have the opportunity to bid on the project.
“We were a little shocked that we didn’t even have the chance,” he said. “This is what we do for a living. We manufacture custom conference tables.
Cryan said he asked the attorney general to review the university’s use of waivers to the public tendering process.
New Jersey Advance Media writer Ted Sherman contributed to this report.