Potential New State Legislature Puts UConn Foundation Under Scrutiny

The state legislature is proposing to make the list of donors contributing to the UConn Foundation public information in response to criticism. This would mean that instead of publishing reports with just the amounts donated, the foundation would have to publish their donor’s personal information.

“As we see an increasing use of the foundation to fund the university,” said Representative Gregg Haddad, Connecticut State legislature. ” I think we need to be very, very cautious moving forward with any bill that would significantly alter the way we deal with the foundation. … I think making a change at this point would be unwarranted” recorded in the Hartford Courant.

Past contributions of the foundation to the university include an additional $300,000 worth of funding to President Susan Herbst’s salary and $251,250 towards former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton’s speech, given in April 2014.

Derek Slap, Associate Vice President of External Relations of the UConn Foundation, stressed the importance of the foundation being a private entity. He articulated that one of the main purposes of the foundation is to supplement UConn’s budget and not replace the funds it receives from the state.

“The people who donate want their personal money, not the money already given in taxes, donated to the foundation, which is held accountable to the donors themselves, as opposed to being utilized to fill in budget holes by the state,” Slap said.

Ninety percent of donors that give to UConn have the money set up with a restricted purpose, meaning, that these funds can only be allocated to what the donor has dictated. This is why, for example, there are various scholarships or speaker series events that will receive money over something else deemed pressing.

Funding a cause, such as Herbst’s salary, comes about through much deliberation and debate on their board of directors.

“The board wanted to make sure that an increase in her President Herbst’s salary was made without taxpayer’s money. Similar universities to UConn as well as preceding presidents at UConn, have received higher salaries, and we would like to make sure President Herbst stays with the university,” Slap said.

Slap and the foundation believe that if information about the different donors were to be made public than different donors would not continue to give money. There was a hearing on February 26, 2015 in which donors and fellow universities reported on whether to release donor information.

“Those of us who are responsible for UConn’s success must understand how our actions impact the rest of the team” Kevin Ollie said, UConn Men’s Basketball head coach. “In this case, passing legislation that exposes our donors’ personal financial information will make it more difficult to raise funds for important initiatives.”

Organizations like, the Freedom of Information Commission, are strong supporters of this piece of legislation that would allow for the release of donors information.

“Simply put, we believe that public confidence in higher education foundations cannot be fully achieved if the foundations continue to be shielded from public scrutiny by their exclusion from the definition of public agency and the provisions of the FOI Act,” Mary Schwind, FOIC Managing Director & Associate General Counsel, said.

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