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Davis, California

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Donations to be made public under new bill

Gov. Schwarzenegger has until Sept. 30 to veto an amended senate bill that calls for increased transparency of University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges subsidiary, as well as auxiliary organizations.

Formerly SB 218, the newly modified SB 330 will update the California Public Records Act. The bill would, under certain conditions, allow private donations to be public, in an attempt to create more openness about the funds in California higher education institutions.

Names, addresses and telephone numbers of persons who volunteer services or donate to specified entities will remain private if those persons request anonymity, the bill states. However, this exemption does not apply if a volunteer or donor meets specified conditions.

One of these conditions is if someone receives gifts valued at $500 in compensation for donations. Another is that donors’ information may be subject to public disclosure if that person attempts to influence curriculum.

Erik Fallis, media relations specialist for the CSU system, said that this is not reasonable because donors want their money to go toward their program of choice.

“The funding that comes in for foundations are almost always designated for a particular purpose,” he said.

UC and CSU administrators who favor vetoing the bill also said that with less donor anonymity there will be fewer monetary gifts, such as those that go toward the funding of student government, on-campus bookstores and dining services.

The UC system alone estimates a potential loss of $7.5 million dollars in revenue as a result of the bill.

“…Campus foundations [will be] at [a] competitive disadvantage to other charities, including private colleges and universities in California, who can guarantee donor’s confidentiality instead of putting their privacy at risk under the provisions of SB 330,” said Senior Legislative Director Happy Chastain in veto request to Schwarzenegger.

A similar case was brought to the Iowa Supreme Court in 2005. The court mandated that records held by the Iowa State University Foundation be disclosed.

Following the ruling, the universities saw a 26 percent increase – an additional $59.9 million – in donations. The subsequent four years after the ruling, Iowa public universities received on average $289.3 million annually in donations – an average of $54.7 million more than the year prior to the ruling, according to a press release.

Fallis said he was not familiar with the case involving the Iowa Supreme Court.

In addition, Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who amended the legislation himself, said that by opposing this bill, UC and CSU are attempting to misguide high-ranking officials in Sacramento.

“UC and CSU administrators are doing a disservice to taxpayers by misleading the Governor,” Yee said in a press release. “Secrecy breeds corruption and not more donations.”

Bill Bagley (R-San Rafael) also recently displayed support for the amended bill.

“There is [currently] no accounting, no access to records of and expenditures made by university-affiliated organizations to and for campus-related activities,” Bagley said in a press release.

“A majority of the billions of dollars held by these auxiliaries are funded by students and parents, and they have a right to know how their money is being used,” said Yee.

California Community Colleges remains neutral on the bill.

MAX ROSENBLUM can be reached at managing@theaggie.org.

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