Scrutiny rises over disappearing funds at CUNY
- The City University of New York has launched an internal investigation into the spending of a $500,000 donation in support of its fine arts programs, an inquiry spurred by faculty inquiry just months after federal investigators began a review of spending by the CUNY Foundation and president Lisa Coico.
- School officials contend the money has been spent on hiring of more than 100 adjunct professors and lecturers in its humanities department, but faculty members suggest that the funds, believed to have been exhausted just a month after the gift was made, were used to close budget gaps.
- Federal officials have not confirmed if the activity on the recent gift will be a part of their investigation of the executive spending.
It has been a difficult summer for CUNY, as the institution has worked to navigate faculty labor negotiations while constituents have called for a return to tuition-free admission for the school in the midst of city budget cuts. But recurring issues with the foundation are a certain pathway to a presidential transition and additional inquiry from city officials into how the institution manages private and public funds.
It is a constant struggle with public institutions; one financial issue or crisis can spawn more inquiry into other areas of management, as was the case recently with the University of California System schools, and interest in the University of Virginia's Strategic Investment Fund. An executive priority should be to avoid foundation spending or investments without proper checks and balances, and when possible, to engage auditors for random assessments of how funds are being disbursed for institutional business.