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Lawmaker Calls For Review After Kean University Buys $219K Table

 UNION, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- When it comes to pricey tables, you might have to go to Las Vegas to sit at one more expensive than what they've got at Kean University in New Jersey.

As CBS2's Scott Rapoport reported, the university paid $219,000 on a custom-built table from a company in China, where it has a campus that it hopes to expand. And some people are not happy about it at all.

"It's actually pretty crazy," said Kean University sophomore Ebony Mainor. "It's very shocking."

"Why did they need such a grand luxury table?" added Kean junior Gabrielle Rivera.

This high-tech, high-gloss, high cost custom-made conference table purchased by the school for meetings in its new Green Lane building. The building is state-of-the-art in every way, according to the university.

A monumental fiscal waste at more than 200 grand, say critics.

"Frankly, this is just a slap in the face to every tax payer in this state," said New Jersey State Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D-Union/Elizabeth.)

Cryan said it is appalling that the taxpayer-funded university would spend so extravagantly. He said Kean had the highest tuition increase of any public university in New Jersey last year – with tuition around $11,000 a year now, 1010 WINS' Rebecca Granet reported.

"Kean University has a history of abuse of the process of bidding and purchasing," the assemblyman told Granet.

Lawmaker Calls For Review After Kean University Buys $219K Table

Given that the university has the campus in China, Cryan said Kean's Board of Trustees waived the bid requirement for the table, saying it was culturally needed.

"It's just wrong, and it's a slap in the face to every family in New Jersey that's struggling to get their kids through college," he said.

Cryan has written a letter to the New Jersey state Attorney General's office urging a review of the waivers that Kean used to buy the table without putting out a bid.

"It's ethically reprehensible and an abuse of tax payer dollars," he said.

But the university said the table is part of a plan to raise the schools profile as an epicenter of world-class education.

The university pointed out that the table seats 23, and has a motorized, two-tiered glass turntable with a 30-year service life, an illuminated map of the world on in the center, the ability to connect up to 60 units for conferencing, built-in gooseneck and wireless microphones, Bose conference speakers, and a variety of other features.

The school said part of the high cost of the table comes from the advanced communication electronics such as data ports, microphones, and multiple frequency bands.

Some students said they get it.

"They spend enough money on school. They spend enough. We're getting the proper education here," said Kean sophomore Austin Davis.

University President Dawood Farahi said the table would have cost $500,000 to make in the United States.

"It is small-minded to focus on the university buying a $200,000 table,'' Farahi told The Record. "Why not? Why not?''

Kean has already hosted high-profile events at the table, including a roundtable where state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Woodbridge) led a discussion on the heroin epidemic in New Jersey, and an economic summit in which the New Jersey Historical Commission and the City of Elizabeth hosted the constable of St. Helier, Isle of Jersey in the English Channel to discuss a sister-city relationship.

The university also said that to offset the cost of the furnishing, the sixth-floor meeting rooms are available to rent for corporate and community organizations.

But CBS2 wanted to ask the university about Cryan's concerns about the lack of a competitive bidding process for the table. The university never returned a call about the subject.

Kean's campus in Wenzhou, which is being financed by the Chinese government, has about 880 Chinese students.

About 16,000 students attend Kean University, a taxpayer-supported school in the township of Union.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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