Someone Should Get Fired Over This $17,000 Table

$17000 table

Sometimes you look at the news and a clear metaphor for what is wrong with the world just jumps off the screen and slaps you in the face. I experienced something like this when I read on FiveThirtyEight’s daily stats page that officials at the University of New Hampshire bought a $17,000 table. The table sits 16 people, and sits in the dining hall. You should be morally outraged over this shameless waste of money.

The Rationale for a $17,000 Table

A university spokeswoman admitted that the purchase was “a mistake.” I think the proper description would be, “someone in the administration was using bath salts and thought it was cool to waste thousands of student dollars on a useless piece of furniture completely unrelated to their education.”

The table was custom designed so a chef can demonstrate how to cook healthy meals to students. While that could be accomplished on any flat surface, a defender of the administration might argue that the LED lights installed into the table can help students see the demonstration easier. Ignore the fact that a $10 lamp from Wal-Mart might illuminate a table as well.

This table is like if you used a New Hampshire physician mortgage to buy a $3 million home with $0 down. You can do it, but it’s probably not a great idea.

Echo Chamber Effect and Job Justification

If you were a senior vice president at a college or university with a vaguely defined job title and a $200,000 salary, what would you do to keep your living? Of course, you would come up with as many programs as possible to oversee to convince the trustees and other administrators to keep you around.

Even in a public state university like University of New Hampshire, a state legislature is not going to be watching the budget like a hawk. There is a “use it or lose it” mentality with money budgeted for programs. If an administrator has money to spend, if he or she returns it their budget will often shrink next year. This desire for keeping every dollar has driven lots of colleges out there to spend money on stupid things, like a $17,000 table.

Fire Someone Over This Table To Send a Message

Unfortunately, administrators are not rewarded for lowering the cost of tuition. They get paid for appearing to have a lot on their plate. There is no carrot of bonuses or higher office awaiting them if they save millions of dollars. There is also no penalty for wasting money, as it takes a lot to get fired in a university culture.

To stop this absurd waste of money, the person who decided to order this table should be fired. If that is not possible due to contractual obligations, then that individual should be demoted and sent back to the faculty if such a position is available. College costs are rising much faster than inflation, and the fact that there are people out there spending $17,000 for a simple piece of furniture underscores how broken the system has become. I written more about the subject on my own university’s decision to spend millions of dollars on a larger student union after the students voted against it.

If the person who decided to buy the table, other administrators around the country would be on notice. If you waste students’ money, do not preserve resources, and prioritize academics, then your job is at risk. This self preservation incentive could go a long way towards slowing the growth of spending in universities. Apparently, the $17,000 table would have paid for an entire year’s worth of tuition at University of New Hampshire.

Administrators are supposed to deliver the best education possible to students at a reasonable cost. For completely ignoring the mission of a public state university, there should be a shakeup in leadership. This $17,000 table is the tip of the iceberg. If more officials lose their cushy six figure jobs for absurd business decisions, college tuition costs might finally slow.

Can you think of something you have seen at your university that is more ridiculous than this $17,000 table? Comment below.

3 thoughts on “Someone Should Get Fired Over This $17,000 Table”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Also, I believe the cost of tuition is increasing at such a rapid pace due to the government being involved in student loans. K-12 teachers teach their students that everyone has to go to college, and the government offers an unlimited amount of loans to every student. Since students are set on going to college no matter what, and because they have an unlimited amount of money, universities continue to raise the tuition to meet this extremely inflated demand. If the government pulled out of the student loan process completely, universities would be forced to drastically reduce the cost of tuition in order to stay in business (currently 70% of students take out student loans).

    1. A big scandal 20 years from now will be the backdoor assumption of most student debt through the forgiveness clauses. If you work in the private sector it’s taxable. However, someone with 200k forgiven that is added to their income tax will owe $100,000 or so. If they do not have it, I imagine it gets written off. Since our accounting system for the federal government uses cash based system, none of the massive liabilities they assumed show up currently. Scary stuff, makes me want to put more money in a Roth

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