By Erin O’Neill, NJ Advance Media for

Kean University has so far paid $219,000 for this 22-foot conference table. (Kean University )
Kean University has so far paid $219,000 for this 22-foot conference table. (Kean University )

The head of the state Assembly’s higher education committee today rebuked Kean University for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a custom-made conference table with electronic equipment from a company in China, calling the purchase exorbitant and emblematic of misplaced priorities.

At the center of the criticism from Assemblywoman Celeste Riley (D-Cumberland) is a 22-foot oak multimedia conference table adorned with mosaic artwork and stainless steel decorations that has space for 23 people and the ability to conference in other people from more than two dozen places around the world. The table sits in a conference center on the top floor of a newly-opened academic building on the school’s campus in Union Township.

The price tag for the table and the accompanying electronic equipment is $219,000, according to the university, which contracted with the Chinese company Shanghai Rongma Office Furniture for the table without putting the project out for competitive bidding.

While Kean University officials have defended the purchase, Riley and other Democratic legislators say it shows an administration veering from its primary mission of providing an affordable education to New Jersey residents.

“This is a quintessential example of the misguided priorities that are failing our students and putting college further out of reach for them,” Riley said in a statement. “The administration’s continued justification for spending well over $200,000 on a table shows it is both out-of-touch with the community it’s intended to serve and more focused on style than substance.”


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