Transparency for Cal Poly Foundation

September 11, 2011

A bill aimed at opening the financial records of California’s institutions of higher education was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“It is a major move forward for transparency,” said Tim O’Keefe, retired Cal Poly faculty and current political action chair for the local California Faculty Association (CFA). “CFA has been trying for years to get an open books policy.”

Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) led the three-year legislative battle to bring greater transparency and accountability to California’s higher education institutions including Universities of California, California State Universities, and the state’s community colleges.

SB 8 requires auxiliaries and foundations associated with the state’s institutions of higher education to produce all financial records, contracts and correspondence to public disclosure upon request.

Prior to the signing of this bill, public education institutions were not required to disclose details on how donations were spent or how much money was in the foundations or auxiliaries.

The most recent scandal of an auxiliary organization made national headlines last year when the CSU Stanislaus Foundation negotiated a speaking contract with Sarah Palin. Students found parts of her contract as well as shredded documents in a campus dumpster after CSU refused to disclose her compensation. After a lawsuit filed by CalAware, a judge ruled that the CSU acted illegally and forced them to disclose the full contract.

The bill also protects the anonymity of donors. However, anonymity would not be provided to any donor who attempts to influence curriculum or university operations or receives something valued at $2,500 or more in return for their contribution.

Despite overwhelming bipartisan support, Yee’s two previous legislative efforts were vetoed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Los Angeles).

“It was a long time coming,” O’Keefe said. “The chancellor was able to bottle it up and convince Arnold to veto the bill for the past few years. They finally got Brown to sign.”

Even though the law does not technically go into effect until January 1, Yee is “urging the UC and CSU to immediately begin complying and providing sunshine to the actions of their foundations and auxiliary organizations.”

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Interesting, I found another article about this from Sac State. Apparently a CSU student started this bill.

The Cal Poly Foundation’s records should be interesting enough, but what would be really interesting for Cal Poly would be Cal Poly Corporation. These folks have to be making a significant amount of money off of the students through Campus Dining and other related services. I’ve always wondered where it goes.

If you read the text of the bill – as I have – you, first, have to ask for the information… I think some of the things to look for is to trace where the funds go. Many questions come to mind. How much went in some form or fashion to Cal Poly administrators? How many incentive or subsidized programs ( such as mortgage payments) were given to any Cal Poly administrators, staff or faculty? This isn’t hard to trace, after all, this isn’t rocket science…

Although he finally signed the bill a week after the time expected, Governor Brown did sign the bill so, to me, he definitely got his mojo back. The disappointing thing is that he signed it with a provision protecting anonymous donors who …we ass-u-me … would not be getting anything in return. An entity controlled directly or indirectly by public officials should not be taking anything from anyone anonymously. Two five million anonymous donations came into Cal Poly during the Saudi Arabia- Cal Poly fiasco that made national news… is there a connection? We may never know.

So maybe, CCN can find two or three volunteer interns to do a little forensic accounting on the books of the Cal Poly Foundation(s) … I am sure it all will be interesting reading. It’s got to be interesting given that– from what I understand– the one person in the entire California legislature who voted against the measure represents our area, San Blakeslee.

I congratulate Senator Yee for sponsoring this bill so many times and Governor Brown for resisting the pressures from the UC and CSU administrators and signing it! I would also like to thank CCN for the courage in reporting on this issue.

Good write-up. Except anonymity is not protected for donations over $2,500. That’s probably a somewhat fair amount. The Foundation holds tens of millions of dollars, thus I’m pretty sure that a $2,500 donation isn’t going to buy V.I.P. status.

Re-read the article, Kevin. There is no anonymity if the donor receives more than $2,500 in value back from the foundation.

Yup. That’s just wrong. What’s the point, then? $50 million from “anonymous”? What good is that?

I’d like the “thumbs down” voters to explain why non-transparency is superior.

Perhaps they are unable as it’s an indefensible position; or, they are one of the bilkers.

Finally… Ask anyone who does not work for the Foundation what a PITA they are. They have tried to convince us that they’re doing something good for everyone, particularly students. In truth, they take a pile of money from students and give back a much smaller pile. The Foundation, among other things, rewrote campus policies in order to give themselves a monopoly on everything in order to protect their profits. Someone should start out by listing the salaries of those who work for the foundation.

Which did not seem to contain anything other than about 1.4 mil in salaries, but not who gets what, or even how many people that covers. A start, but definitely not a transparent audit.

It’s about gd time. Our society is FULL of obstacles to this sort of disclosure. Guess what. Without this disclosure, this society can in no sense be considered a free one.

Any country without a free flow of information is no free country AT ALL!

It’s about time “The Foundation” is exposed.