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Tripathi says UB Foundation’s records can’t go public

Details of how the University at Buffalo raises and spends money through its $966 million private foundation won’t be released to the public.

UB President Satish K. Tripathi has informed members of the university’s Faculty Senate that he doesn’t have the legal authority to make publicly available detailed budget figures for the University at Buffalo Foundation and affiliates.

“As a not-for-profit 501(c) (3) corporation, the University at Buffalo Foundation is outside of my purview as University at Buffalo President,” Tripathi wrote in a letter earlier this month to Ezra B. Zubrow, professor of anthropology and chairman of the Faculty Senate. “Neither I as President, nor the University at Buffalo as an institution, have the legal authority to make available any records held by the UB Foundation as a private corporation.”

The Senate formally requested the financial records in December, amid growing concern on campus that the public university was acting more like a private institution by not adequately explaining hundreds of millions of dollars in foundation expenditures over the years.

“If we don’t see the figures, we just have no idea of what’s being done,” Kenneth Dauber, professor of English at UB and a member of the Senate’s executive committee.

The foundation annually releases an audited financial statement, but the statement does not provide details about spending on university programs, nor does it explain where the money comes from.

For example, the most recent statement, for the 2012-13 fiscal year, lists total expenses of $105.7 million.

Expenses are further broken down as program, such as in academic divisions, where $57.5 million was spent; fundraising, where $7.6 million was spent and administrative divisions, where $13.7 million was spent.

The other expense category was “administration and other,” which included a business office administration expense of $3.3 million and property expense of $23.8 million.

“There are no line items there,” said Dauber. “It’s just the 990 IRS tax forms. That’s not a budget.”

Dauber introduced a resolution in the Senate last December that called upon Tripathi to make the foundation’s budget available, in the same way that the budget for the university is available, so that the Senate and the public at large can weigh in on the university’s spending priorities.

Dauber said he didn’t understand Tripathi’s response to the resolution.

“Clearly, UBF is under his purview, not outside his purview,” he said, noting that Tripathi is on the foundation’s board of trustees.

Tripathi does not have the authority to act independently of the board.

Still, said Dauber, the university president can push the issue with other members of the foundation board.

The foundation, which was created in 1962, raises money, manages gifts and grants, and develops and manages property on behalf of the university.

It had total assets of $966 million, according to the 2012-13 financial statement, the latest data available.

The assets include an endowment of about $554 million, which is invested in equities, fixed-income securities and other areas.

A percentage of the income derived from the endowment investments is used to assist university programs.

In his letter, Tripathi said the UB Foundation makes much of its financial information available online.

He also suggested that the Senate invite UB Vice President Laura Hubbard to discuss university finance and budget issues.