Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Even if you wanted to donate $ to CSU there's a hitch. The implications of dismantling the CSU Foundation.

For the past six months the CSU Foundation has endured a slow death in the shadows of the Cook Administration Building. Today was its last day. 

In December 2014 the CSU Board of Trustees announced it was severing ties with the CSU Foundation which has been part of the university since 1968 before the 95th Street campus opened. It was granted 501c3 status the following year. For those of you who are unaware of what the CSU Foundation is or its significance to the university it is the locus of tax-free charitable donations to the university, it is the university’s fund-raiser to support student scholarships and it is the administrator of your grant money. Without the Foundation set up as a 501c3 through the Federal Internal Revenue Service the university cannot legally give anyone a tax receipt for their donation.  An organization needs an I.R.S determination letter. CSU applied for this in the spring but the application was rejected--no update on that status yet.

In answer to some of the questions posed by my colleagues this afternoon the impact to the university of Dr. Watson and the CSU Board’s actions last December is that as of July 1, 2015:

1.      No one can donate money and receive the benefit of a receipt for their tax.

2.      CSU faculty cannot apply for grants. Currently no one in the university can apply for a grant from a corporation or foundation because no one will give a grant to an organization that is not a nonprofit. Without 501c3 status you are not a non-profit organization. By severing relations with the CSU Foundation, the university no longer has a 501c3 nonprofit status.

3.      People who currently have money in the foundation (e.g. anyone controlling a scholarship fund, anyone who has received a charitable gift in support of their program or department) have no access to this money. The Administration has not told us how this money is going to be accessed or how it is to be distributed.

4.      Payroll deduction is affected in light of the fact that the university no longer has a 501c3. What of those faculty, staff, and administrators who contribute to CSU via payroll deductions? Is their charitable contribution still being deducted? How is it being deducted? Who is receiving it?  Will the moneys be held in escrow? Are they still going to be deducted and deducted from the donor's taxes? These are serious and significant questions.

5.      No one outside the university who knows about the change in the CSU Foundation is now willing to give. Anyone who has a stake in the university, anyone whom CSU has known as a donor has been told that the university cannot accept their charitable contributions. This loss of faith in CSU could have long-term implications. If people do not believe CSU can or will take care of their money, if people do not think CSU will be good stewards of their money, they will not give money. There are plenty of worthy non-profit organizations seeking donors. CSU is not the only option.   

The impact on the university grant recipients and donors is one thing. The past six months also has taken a toll on the small staff of the Foundation. Their experience is a good lesson in how you are treated at CSU when you are powerless and not well-connected. After weeks of begging for answers from Human Resources about their status post-June 30,th Foundation Staff were finally told on Monday, yesterday, that their employment would end at 5 p.m. today. Shame on the university for such a craven display and delay in providing long-serving university employees information.

The website for the new CSU Foundation was rumored to be available tonight after midnight. You could say that the “new” CSU Foundation stands alongside the much ballyhooed “West Side Campus” as another example of irresponsibility and incompetence of  President Watson, Anthony Young and his CSU Board. Will the politicians of ILL continue to give the oversight of CSU to people who clearly have no business running a university? I think we know that answer.

And knowing what you know, would you feel confident in giving CSU your money? Do you feel confident in investing your charitable donations in a university run like a political ward? 

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