NJ lawmaker raises roof over $219,000 table at public university

 The mixed-media conferencing center at Kean University. (Photo/Kean University)

The mixed-media conferencing center at Kean University. (Photo/Kean University)

A New Jersey lawmaker is asking the state’s attorney general to review a public university’s purchase of a $219,000 custom-made conference table.

Kean University is dismissing criticism of its acquisition, saying the table with built-in electronic equipment in a glass-enclosed circular conference room answers a need for a world-class corporate meeting space.

A professional creative services contract allowed Kean to waive the competitive bidding and have the table built by a company in China where it has a campus and hopes to expand, according to a university representative.

Saying that every taxpayer in New Jersey should be “outraged,” Assemblyman Joe Cryan said even if the process was perfectly legal, it was morally reprehensible — and the school near Newark would have better invested the money in scholarships.

“Well the tuition there is $11,000 a year, and $219,000 for a table … obviously 20 or so students would have had an opportunity to attend college,” said Cryan, D-Union. “It’s just a completely misplaced priority.”

Cryan says higher education should focus on graduating students at a cost their families can afford.

“I believe there’s more focus these days in many cases in higher education of who has the more important program. The vanity needs to end, the competition needs to end,” he said.

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