Photo illustration by Michael Uribes
Schwarzenegger’s Sept. 30 decision to veto Senate Bill 330, known as the transparency bill, would have made financial information from community colleges and universities in California available to the public, a decision President John Welty expressed support for.
Under SB 330, California State Universities would have to fully disclose public records under the California Public Records Act.
Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill last year that also would have obligated universities to disclose financial records regarding donations to the public.
“I think it was a very good decision,” said Welty. “The potential of that bill to drive donors away from the universities was very high.”
However, many legislators and students supported the bill due to recent scandals surrounding many colleges and universities, including Fresno State.
In 2001, the California Faculty Association reported that “an employee of the Fresno State Foundation received a no-bid managing Contract for a theater complex in which he held an interest.”
In 1995, The Sonoma State University foundation “gave a $1.25 million loan to a board member, who had resigned two days earlier,” as reported by CFA. The board member failed to pay back the loan.
The CFA, which supports SB 330, has found that several universities have mixed their public and private funds.
The CFA stated that, “other campuses – including Sonoma and Fresno State universities, as well as City College of San Francisco – also have run into problems with their foundations, sometimes allegedly hiding and illegally using public funds.”
An audit done by the Auxiliary Organization in 2008 affirmed many of these allegations.
“[Fresno State] generates 20 to 25 million dollars a year from private support,” Welty said. “Not all of that is anonymous, but even if an individual is not anonymous, it has the potential to drive people away from giving.”
According to SB 330, a donor’s name can be kept anonymous, as long as the donor does not receive a thank-you gift greater than $500.
Peter Smits, vice president for university advancement, said that Fresno State does not give any thank-you gifts to donors greater than $500.
“They might get an invitation to a dinner and recognition,” Smits said. “They don’t get gifts.”
Since official information regarding these donors is not available to the public, The Collegian could not affirm this information.
“I think [the veto] was a good decision,” said Smits. “The bill was flawed and not in the best interest of the CSU or our friends and supporters.”
Smits also said the CFA allegations were false.
“It’s outrageously false; they have to get their facts before they talk about that.”
Because SB 330 was passed by a bipartisan vote, many legislators and students were surprised Governor Schwarzenegger rejected the bill again.
Fresno State graduate student Hector Cerda was unhappy about the bill not being passed.
“Senate Bill 330 should have been passed because it does allow the state and people to know the truth and see where money is going,” Cerda said.
“If I donated $1,000 and I receive box seats from the Save Mart Center that are worth $500, then my name would have to be revealed,” said Cerda.
Because the bill was not passed, Cerda asked, what would stop him from using the $1000 donation as a tax deduction in IRS tax forms and still receive the box seats?
“It was wrong for Governor Schwarzenegger to veto it,” said Cerda. “And it is wrong for anyone to say that it was great what Governor Schwarzenegger did.”
“This is a public university and if people do give, they should say, ‘I don’t want something in return,’ and say, ‘I want the young people of this state to become educated, [and] that is more important,’” said Cerda.
“There is a wide variety [of donors],” Welty said. “For many, they prefer to give to universities, but they don’t want lots of other people contacting them to make gifts, so it is pretty much an individualized decision.”
“Over 80 percent of our support comes from academic programs and scholarships, about 20 percent to athletics,” Welty said about where donated money goes.
“Those that advocate for the bill use erroneous information which really arises questions about the credibility of those who are supporting the bill,” Welty said. “I think if there was a more accurate attempt made to understand what is available, what is not available, then there wouldn’t be a problem. In fact, I would be very supportive of a bill that has restrictions as long as it didn’t have restrictions on private donors and other information that could be harmful.”