Kean University has spent $219,000 for a custom-built, circular conference table that was made in China, according to The Record newspaper.
Kean University did not put the project out to bid and picked a company in Shanghai, the 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 Record. "Why not? Why not?"
The 22-foot circular table seats 23 people and is made of oak with cherry veneer. It features data ports, microphones, an illuminated world map and a motorized, two-tiered glass turntable.
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 taxpayer-supported school in the township of Union, which is about 15 miles west of Manhattan.