By Katie Lannan, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
ELIZABETH — The city’s Board of Education has passed a resolution calling on Kean University to sell its controversial $219,000 conference table and put the funds toward reducing tuition or improving campus services, including student parking.
The school district is also asking its counterparts throughout Union County to take similar action, in hopes of sending a message to the university’s Board of Trustees.
Kean attracted national attention last month when news broke that the public university, with an enrollment of around 12,000 undergraduates, had spent $219,000 on a high-tech, multimedia table and associated electronics.
“Spending such a large amount of money on a piece of furniture shocks the senses,” Board of Education president Tony Monteiro said in a statement. “Those families who struggle to support and finance the education of their children at taxpayer-financed institutions like Kean dserve to have an answer as to how this university can continue down this path of reckless spending and largesse.”
The board believes Kean’s Board of Trustees must work to “stem the tide of misspending” at the school, the statement said.
Monteiro said he and his colleagues on the board consider the table part of a trend at the school, in which high-cost campus upgrades with “little relevance to the quality of education” are prioritized over students’ needs.
As an example, he pointed to the restaurant Ursino on the school’s main Union Township campus, a high-end establishment not linked to any academic programs.
“Kean’s $2.5 million restaurant and other vanity projects have shifted limited resources away from what is needed the most, like providing an affordable college education,” Monteiro said. “That needs to be the university’s main focus.”