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This image shows four white Airlines. Finacial report from Uconn Foundation spent almost $200,000 on private jets in recent fiscal years. Photo courtesy of Asad Photo Maldives/Pexel

Financial reports from the University of Connecticut Foundation show that it spent almost $200,000 on private jets in recent fiscal years. 

The UConn Foundation’s fiscal report for 2023 shows that it paid Apollo Jets LLC $193,409. This makes Apollo Jets the fifth largest expense for the foundation in 2021. 

Fossil Fuel Free UConn, a student organization at the University of Connecticut, said in a statement that the use of private jets “cannot legitimately be construed to serve any educational purpose of this university.” 

According to Jennifer Huber, the foundation’s senior director for marketing and communications, the private jets are used to recruit athletes. The UConn Foundation pays for the expenses from donations to the foundation. David Carney, senior vice president and chief financial officer of the UConn Foundation, said in a statement that the costs were covered by donations to the University’s athletic program. 

“Alumni and friends who make philanthropic gifts designated for recruitment travel for the men’s and women’s basketball teams have covered costs associated with travel for recruiting student-athletes, including charter flights, as the coaching staffs deem most impactful,” Carney said in his statement. “These donors’ generosity supports the continued excellence of the 11-time NCAA champions women’s team and the five-time championship-winning men’s team.” 

Fossil Fuel Free UConn has previously campaigned for the UConn Foundation to disclose its expenses and investments fully. It said in its statement that the foundation needs to be more transparent with how it uses donations. 

“Considering the current state of UConn’s budgetary crisis, with the university deciding whether to cut critical educational programs, eliminate student resources and activities, or raise tuition, it is imperative that the UConn Community have transparency on the decisions being made with its finances. Since the privatization of the UConn Foundation in 2015, however, there has been little accountability to the university regarding how its money has been spent.” 

The foundation is only obligated to disclose its five highest compensated contractors. In September 2023, Fossil Fuel Free UConn sought full transparency from UConn and the UConn Foundation with a petition signed by over 1,000 UConn community members. According to the organization, sufficient disclosures have not yet happened. 

“Despite continued requests from students, the Board of Trustees, and even from President Maric’s office regarding its investment practices, the Foundation has continuously refused to provide any substantive and specific information,” their statement said. 

The UConn Foundation is a private entity that is separate from the university. It covers expenses through fundraising and donations. According to Carney’s statement, the money covering the private jets is allotted based on the donors’ priorities. 

“The UConn Foundation’s mission is to raise money to support students, academics, athletics, faculty and programs. In fulfilling this mission, we look to align the University’s needs and priorities with areas where donors feel most passionate and honor the donors’ intent for how their gifts are used,” Carney said. 

In 2018 and 2019, Wheels Up LLC, another company that provides private jets, was in the top five contractors paid by the UConn Foundation. Wheels Up was paid $208,615 in 2018, making them the foundation’s fifth-highest compensated contractor that year. In 2019, the foundation paid Wheels Up $375,431, making them the second-highest compensated contractor. No private travel contractors were listed in the top five in 2020. 

Fossil Fuel Free UConn called on Amy Yancey, the newly appointed president and CEO of the UConn Foundation, to improve the foundation’s accountability under her leadership. 

“It is unconscionable for a public university to be hiding from ethical considerations regarding its financial practices. Students have a right to know what they are paying for, and the UConn community has a right to confirm that the university’s money is being spent in alignment with the school’s values as an educational institution,” their statement said. 

Yancey said in a statement that she was committed to and proud of UConn’s vision to address climate change.  

“While I am only a little over a month into my role, I’m dedicated to working with my team and the UConn Foundation’s Board of Directors to advance UConn’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and become an international model of sustainability—as outlined in the University Strategic Plan and the Sustainability Framework Plan,” she said in the statement. “This includes reducing our own footprint, fulfilling our commitment to responsible investing, and fundraising to support UConn’s climate goals as well as academics and research aimed at developing solutions and a sustainable future.” 

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