Transparency is key

UB Foundation’s budget should be public

On December 5, 2013

On Tuesday, something anomalous happened at this university: For the first time in at least six years, enough faculty senators were present at a meeting to have quorum and even vote on a motion.

Using the word dysfunction is a polite way to describe how the Faculty Senate has been operating for years.

But what finally induced enough senators to come together was a worthy cause. The UB Foundation - a private, non-profit organization - does not disclose what it does with roughly $1 billion of funds. UBF receives millions of dollars annually in donations on behalf of the university that goes toward what? We don't know.

Nobody knows - except UBF.

UBF may be a separate entity from the university, but it is comprised of many of the same players - President Satish Tripathi sits on its board.

After the motion, the university issued a statement that said, "As a major public research university, the University at Buffalo values transparency and understands the importance of being transparent and forthright in its endeavors and communications."

If the university truly values transparency, then why aren't they being transparent with this? Why aren't they letting the community know what the UBF is doing with its funds?

If they can talk the talk, they should be able to walk the walk.

Now is as good a time as ever for UBF's budget to be made public. There is a lot of money being pumped into the university - a public university. And yet only a few people know what is being done with it.

And if there is nothing to hide, why hide it?

We don't know that anything sketchy has been done with the UBF budget, and we certainly don't want to imply that there has been any scandalous activity, but many would like to be assured that there isn't.

Not to mention, many people are curious how the powers that be at this university are directing money. There is a lot of talk about initiatives involving UB 2020, and members of the community want to know how much is going to these initiatives at the expense of other needs being neglected.

Many departments at UB feel they are not receiving sufficient attention or funding from the university, and it would be concerning to many if more money were going toward improving UB's image at the expense of underfunding critical student services.

Some may say that because UBF is a private organization, it is under no obligation to disclose its budget and its spending. And this is true. But we believe it should be.

UBF accumulates substantial amounts of revenue on behalf of the university and, as Senator Kenneth Dauber pointed out, UBF is an entity that is largely controlling how the university operates.

It's the power of UBF at this university that makes this motion so important for our community. Money is power - and UBF has a lot of money. We want to know what they are doing with it.

It is well understood that budgets reflect values; people spend money on what they value the most. It seems strange that the organization that is controlling a huge portion of the university's discretionary spending chooses to remain private - protecting its actions from being monitored. They are hiding from the public what they value most.

Well, the university has been very clear that they consider transparency a major value. Now is time to really prove it.



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