University Olympic suite scam

Issue 

SYDNEY — Despite recent funding problems which may force the closure of some of its most prominent faculties, the University of New South Wales has purchased a corporate suite at the Olympic Stadium. UNSW pro-vice-chancellor Jane Morrison, when interviewed by ABC radio 2BL on May 12, refused to divulge the cost of the suite on the grounds that the information was confidential.

In a document obtained by the Daily Telegraph which was submitted in November by UNSW vice-chancellor John Niland to SOCOG, the organiser of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Niland expressed a preference for a suite in the eastern stand. This would cost $245,000 for 20 seats and $490,000 for 40 seats for the Sydney Olympic and Paralympic Games. He asked SOCOG chief executive for preferential treatment in light of "UNSW's contribution to SOCOG and the Olympic movement".

Niland's submission stated that investing the university's money in a suite was "based on some very important promotional considerations". He elaborated in an internal university document dated April 20, claiming that the suite would "facilitate the attention" of world scholars and other vice-chancellors.

The document also states: "It is intended that some access to the suite will be available, perhaps through ballot or some other selection device, to staff of the university who warrant particular recognition". Niland said the "UNSW suite at Olympic Stadium will more than pay for itself", although he did not explain how.

In the same month that he decided to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the Olympics suite, Niland ordered a review of the maths, physics and chemistry schools because of student levels and funding shortages. Amalgamations and closures were discussed, as well as the possibility of "dispersing" the school of mathematics, regarded as one of the best in the country.

[Abridged from a report by Rae Frances, the National Tertiary Education Industry Union branch president at UNSW.]