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Editorial: UConn foundation should disclouse their list of donors to the public

Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 22:02

Last week, a bill was introduced in the state legislature to designate the UConn Foundation as a public agency under Connecticut’s Freedom of Information laws. This would means that the foundation would have to disclose all of its financial records, including its list donors.

The UConn Foundation currently gets an exemption from Connecticut’s FOI laws in order to keep its donor list anonymous. The foundation says that opening up its records would hurt donations, but proponents of the bill argue that it’s necessary because the foundation receives public money and works so closely with the university. Given the scope of the foundation’s funding and the amount of money they receive, they should have to disclose their donors.

The university and the UConn Foundation currently have a fee-for-service relationship. UConn pays the Foundation about $8 million a year to fundraise for them. In exchange for that, the foundation raised $63.3 million dollars last year. All of the Foundation’s money goes directly into the university’s budget, but most of it goes to a specific cause designated by the donor. Most university fundraising foundations pay their own expenses through money generated by their endowments, but the UConn foundation is too new to have endowments of that size, and most of their donations are restricted by the donor to a specific cause and can’t be used for operating expenses. The operating money they receive from the university is part of the school’s operating budget and doesn’t come from state tax money.

Despite these characteristics, the UConn Foundation should still have to disclose its donations. Greater transparency would allow for the fund and its donors to be scrutinized for improprieties and other misuses of funds or power. At a legislative hearing on the bill last Wednesday, Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information member G. Claude Albert said that while there are no scandals or improprieties that he knew of at the UConn Foundation, other states had similar issues. At one university, a fund was involved with a power struggle to oust the school’s president. At UConn, the foundation has been in the news recently for buying Susan Herbst a $600,000 house in West Hartford.

The foundation has received more than $90 million from UConn, a public institution in the past 14 years. They’ve also raised $711 million since 2001. Almost $1 billion have come to UConn through the foundation since 2000, and the origins of that money can’t be traced. Because of the size of their donation pool and their influence, the UConn Foundation should be as transparent as possible.  

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