by Mike Hall, Mar 25, 2008
The Arizona State University Foundation spent nearly $1 million for meals and other events at luxurious Phoenix-area hotels and more than $600,000 in flowers, gifts and trophies in 2005–2006. That same year, overhead expenses, including the meals and flowers, accounted for 56 percent of the foundation’s expenditures, while direct grants to Arizona State University (ASU) made up just 44 percent of spending.
Meanwhile, the mainly immigrant workers, employed by Great Western Erectors on ASU campus projects, say they have been denied water in the 100-plus degree temperatures of the desert summer, forced to pay for their own safety equipment and denied breaks. They also say they have been verbally abused by supervisors while working at job sites on campus.
A new report by the Coalition for Justice at Great Western Erectors examining the foundation’s spending and priorities was released this morning at a Tempe press conference. The coalition of workers, unions, community and student groups is fighting for just treatment of workers at Great Western, which is building ASU’s high-tech center in Scottsdale and other university projects.
As a fundraiser for the university, the foundation’s mission is to help fill in gaps in revenue at the university where student tuition and fees have doubled in the past six years. But compensation for foundation executives has jumped by 440 percent in the same time frame, according to the report. Says coalition researcher Sara Myklebust:
The ASU Foundation’s public records reveal an institution that has lost sight of its mission. The foundation should be funding scholarships and opportunities for students to advance their education goals. Instead they are spending money on raises for executives and hundreds of thousands of dollars on other questionable expenses.
One of those executives, the report notes, is Sybil Francis, wife of university President Michael Crow. According the report, Francis receives $160,000 a year as “senior adviser” to the foundation.
It is unclear exactly what…Francis’s duties as a “senior advisor” were….The foundation reported she worked 65 hours a week on its behalf….However she was simultaneously employed as the Executive Directors of the unrelated Center for the Future of Arizona, another nonprofit organization and was paid over $100,000.
The report examined several similarly sized universities and found their fund-raising foundations spent far less on overhead and far more on direct grants to their schools. On average, 80 percent of their annual expenditures went directly to their schools.
Last fall, after Crow refused to meet with student activists who had been fighting to help Great Western workers win better wages and working conditions, dozens of students protested at the school’s new student convocation.
In 2006, ASU students worked with university administration officials to create “Values-Based Principles” for subcontractors. Despite these efforts, Great Western was hired to build projects for the ASU Foundation and the university.
The Iron Workers union has been assisting the Great Western workers in their effort to get a voice on the job. The nearly 200 employees at Great Western install rebars—steel reinforcing rods in concrete structures.