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College flunks business ethics practicum

Michael Agganis is a successful businessman and, until recently, proud alumnus of Massachusetts' Salem State College. He has also been their most generous contributor.

But now he's angry with the college -- and, I think, with good reason.

Nine years ago, Agganis offered the school $250,000 for its business school. The school came back with a counteroffer -- if he doubled that to a cool half a million, they'd build a new building for the school and name it after him. He accepted it and sent in his check.

Fast forward a few years. The school built the Business School building, but didn't name him after it. Instead, his name adorns a former GTE factory building now converted into office space, which the school rents out to businesses.

Mr. Agganis was about to give a whole million dollars to the school when he discovered that the school had reneged on their earlier agreement. In fact, not only did he cancel that donation, he's demanding his earlier $500,000 back, and says he'll find a new school to shower his blessings upon.

The president of Salem State, Nancy Harrington says she regrets that things have reached this point. She's quoted in today's Boston Globe as saying "I don't think there is a right or wrong side of this. Mr. Agganis hasn't done anything improper nor has the college done anything improper."

Here's a hint, Ms. Harrington: if you accept money for doing something, you ought to do it. If you don't, for whatever reason, then you ought to give your money back. You don't just call it a "misfortunate understanding" and move on, keeping the money.

I wonder if Enron had a preference for Salem State alumni?

(I've got a personal perspective on this. Last January, I agreed to write some pieces in exchange for donations to tsunami relief, and I still have two of them left to write. My apologies to Sparkle and
Vanshalar -- I WILL get them out, and sooner than later.)

J.

(Update: the college has agreed in principle to return the money, and negotiations are underway to work out the legalities. But it was still incredibly stupid of the school to publicly screw over its biggest benefactor.)


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Comments (10)

No apologies necessary. I k... (Below threshold)

No apologies necessary. I know you're busy bird watching and all...(just kidding)

I'll just write the tsunami relief fund and demand a refund.....;-)

I am thinking the Universit... (Below threshold)
Just Me:

I am thinking the University needs to take a few classes on ethics.

In my years of dealing with... (Below threshold)
bullwinkle:

In my years of dealing with people in situations like this "agreed in principle" is the equivalent of "let us back to you on that after we've found some way to weasel out of it. It only takes a little while before the sotry moves from two columns on page 4 of the A section to 3 inches below the fold on the obit page. Dead and buried, right next to a liquor store ad.

Why would they do this? Do ... (Below threshold)
julie:

Why would they do this? Do they consider his donation chump change?

Julie: I've noticed a trend... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

Julie: I've noticed a trend lately that a lot of schools think that, once they have the check in hand, it's theirs and they can do any damn thing they want with it. This goes for both donations and government appropriations. I can't find the story right now, but there was a case a few years ago of a wealthy person that made a donation to an Ivy League school to set up a program in Western Civilization. The school instead took the money and used it to set up a faculty-padded "multicultural center". When the donor complained, the university basically said "nyah-nyah-nyah". The donor sued and got the money back.

OF COURSE that college had ... (Below threshold)
Rob Hackney:

OF COURSE that college had ETHICS!

LIBERAL ETHICS!

See where that gets you?

Cousin Dave: It sounds like... (Below threshold)
julie:

Cousin Dave: It sounds like our local government who is always asking us to vote for increase taxes for more police. Problem is that any increase in revenue collected goes into the general fund and gets raided by the rest of the departments.

I would think that with a donation that size, there would be a specific and enforceable contract. Since, they seem to get their money back, I assume there is a contract. Maybe, there should be a penalty clause written into it.

I wonder whether he's relat... (Below threshold)

I wonder whether he's related to ill-fated former Red Sox outfielder Harry Agganis.

Michael Agganis must have t... (Below threshold)
shauna marie:

Michael Agganis must have the beginnings of dementia. He attended the ceremony at Salem State College where the business enterprise building, not the School of Business, was dedicated to him. He and his entire family was there and as far as anyone knew at the time, he had no complaints about that building being named for him instead of the School of Business. There are many newspaper reports of his being in attendance and accepting that honor. Why is he now trying to say he was told that the School of Business was to be named for him and that he only recently found that out. One might also check out his recent activity with the B.U. Foundation in which he and his son are playing major funding roles. Could it be that he decided that giving $1M to B.U. might be more prestigious than giving money to Salem State? Or does he have a vendetta against President Harrington and this is a carefully orchestrated event to remove her from the Presidency? Having worked at SSC and having known both players in this drama, I am inclined to believe there is much more to the Agganis motive than the press and the blogs are reporting. Shauna Marie.

I just came across this web... (Below threshold)
maddie:

I just came across this website and have a response to comments made by Shauna Marie. Michael Agganis is definitely not suffering from dementia. In fact he is sharp as a tack. Michael Agganis' donation to Salem State college was a purely unselfish decision and was made out of love for his alma mater and to help all business administration students. Perhaps you might have read the original contract between Mr. Agganis and the college before you make comments. Yes, Mr. Agganis and his family was present at the dedication of the building that was called the enterprise center and not the school of business. He sincerly thought that the enterprise center was going to house student classrooms and business seminars and not just start up business. In fact that building is not even owned by Salem State College. A fact that he just discovered last April. Mr. Agganis has no vendetta against Ms. Harrington. If he had he would not have donated additional funds after this fact. As for the comment about B.U. funding. Mr. Agganis and his son has donated a statue of his uncle which is placed outside the Agganis Arena at the Hancock Village at B.U. He has also contributed funds to the Agganis Scholarship Fund, which is distributed to many students attending B.U. This is purely a personal endeavorand a tributet to the memory of his uncle. May I suggest that you get your facts straight before making comments.




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