URI Spent Over $41,000 On Cabot House Furniture In President’s Home
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
The major expenses were $13,208 on a “settee, chairs, sectionals, table, etc.,” $7,398 for “sofa and chairs,” $5,294 for a “dining set, rug, swivel chair, table,” and $3,659 for a “oval umbrella table, six arm chairs and an umbrella base.” Other costs include $1,193 for a nightstand and table, nearly $1,700 for four armchairs, and $749 for a wing chair.
According to URI Communications and Marketing Director Linda Acciardo, the home furnishings were purchased with non-state dollars and are located in the public spaces within the residence, used for university functions.
“When the president was hired, the furniture that remained with the house in the public spaces required replacement,” said Acciardo.
The Need To Maintain
Officials at URI say that ensuring the President’s residence, particularly the public spaces, is important for carrying out key functions. Acciardo says the URI Foundation was the source of the non-state funds.
“The president is required to carry out various official duties and responsibilities within the residence that include entertaining visiting dignitaries and community leaders, holding receptions, meetings and fund-raising events, and hosting many student organizations, as well as staff and faculty groups,” said Acciardo.
The Cabot furniture purchases were a small part of a full-scale renovation project that ultimately cost upwards of $460,000. The bulk of the expenses came as a result of transforming the house into a full-time residence after being used exclusively for functions and events.
“When the president was hired in 2009, the RI Board of Governors for Higher Education approved the expenses associated with the renovation and repair to the residence and the grounds,” said Acciardo. “Like the more than 300 buildings on the Kingston campus owned by the University, the President’s residence is state property and a state investment. It needed to be upgraded substantially, since it had not been used as a home for seven years.”
Questions Still Linger
Despite the university’s insistence that the purchases were necessary, some activists in Rhode Island are still questioning the spending. Critics insist money is being spent callously and more oversight is needed.
Susan Wynne, who has two children enrolled at URI, questions why nearly a million dollars would be allocated to a single building on campus.
“Taxpayers need to be demanding accountability and transparency,” said Wynne, who also serves as the President of the Steering Committee. “There are some serious questions that need to be answered.”
Students Speak Out
Some students, like 20-year-old Communications major Pat Brown, aren’t surprised by the university’s spending. As an active member of the campus community, Brown has had significant experience requesting funds and resources from the university. His observations around campus haven’t always been positive.
“There is money that is spent poorly at the university and funded towards the wrong areas, which is very frustrating,” said Brown, who has organized student senate-sponsored events, rebuilt the surfing club, and served as the president of his fraternity for three years.
Brown is particularly troubled with how money is allocated between academic departments, especially when it comes to his own major.
“The money goes towards some of the smallest departments like nursing and pharmacy while the larger departments like Communications are stuffed in the corners of old buildings,” said Brown.
The Big Picture
President Dooley moved into the residence, located at 56 Upper College Road in Kingston, in July 2009. In 2010, the house played host to 48 events, 46 in 2011, and 42 in 2012.
Of the more than $460,000 spent on President Dooley’s home, $211,897 was spent on basic building repairs and $127,287 went towards interior renovations. Other expenses include $39,200 for irrigation systems for grounds and beds, $18,580 for telecommunications updating, $4,573 for landscaping and $960 in moving fees.
According to the most recent Grapevine study, Rhode Island spent $163.5 million on higher education in 2011-2012, not including federal monies. That figure has dropped from $196.4 million in 2006-07.
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