University President Uses College Donation Funds for Personal Expenditures?

University President Uses College Donation Funds for Personal Expenditures?
Susan Dutca-Lovell

Faculty at CUNY were relatively concerned when they noticed a $500,000 donation account only had $76 left in it. It was especially suspicious after City College President Lisa Coico previously used $150,000 towards personal expenses.

The account - the Martin and Toni Sosnoff Fund for the Arts - is intended to support the humanities and arts department at the City University of New York. The donation, which is part of the holdings of CUNY's 21st Century Foundation, serves as the "school's principal fund-raising arm," and was already under investigation. In May, The Times revealed that City College's 21st Century Foundation had paid for Coico's personal expenses, including "fruit baskets, housekeeping services and rugs," when she took office in 2010. The foundation was reimbursed $150,000 from the Research Foundation of the City University of New York, which manages research funds for CUNY. A CUNY spokesperson defended Coico, claiming the "expenditures were authorized by the CCNY 21st Century foundation" but that recent hire Coico "had not known that permission was [also] required by the university."

When CUNY faculty members initially demanded an explanation for the "improperly diverted" funds, they experienced "silence, delay and deflection" before reaching out to University Chancellor James B. Milliken. According to The New York Times, Milliken's "willingness to conduct an internal investigation suggests that the finances of City College, and the leadership of Mrs. Coico, are likely to be under more scrutiny."

Faculty members are “deeply concerned about the practical, ethical and legal implications of the situation.” CUNY isn’t the only school in such a predicament - chancellors at the University of California, Berkeley and at Davis have resigned over similar expenditure controversies. Currently, it is unknown “who withdrew the money, when and for what purpose."

How should the situation be remedied if the funds are found to be improperly diverted, again? Share with us your thoughts below.

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