Barinaga, Marcia. "Stanford Sails Into a Storm," Science 250 (21 December 1990), p. 1651.
Representative John Dingell and his committee are looking into the overhead charges that
universities force on government. It has been suggested by some that the charges are excessive
and that government auditors have been "generous" in allowing universities to charge
government for things. Stanford University in particular, with its very high rates, has been the
subject of concern. And looking into improprieties, one finds them. It now appears: "The
government is playing 20% of such expenses as $2500 to repair a grand piano, $3000 for a cedar-
lined closet, and $2000 a month for flower arrangements at the home of Stanford president
Donald Kennedy." Yes, that figure is $2000 a month for flower arrangements!
"Stanford spokesman Larry Horton defends the charges that are permissible, pointing out, for
example, that the president's house is owned by Stanford, not Kennedy. Research pays for a
fraction of running the house, he says, because some functions held there are research-related -
such as dinners associated with science policy conferences. But he says Stanford may stop
charging for some ideas that are "hard for people to understand.'"
Withal, even with the non-permissible charges, the misused funds amount to only 0.04% of the
$443 million in research overhead and, "when the error was first identified this fall, Stanford
paid the money back."
Dingell will undoubtedly pursue this line of attack on Big Science. The audits have thus far
turned this much up at one school, what else is out there? Also, Dingell's interest has provoked
some other interests as the TV show "20/20" is reported to be poking around.