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Report Raises Conflict Of Interest Questions At Mass. Colleges

BOSTON — A new report is raising questions about possible conflicts of interest between some of the wealthiest private colleges in Massachusetts and their trustees.

As our Newscast unit reported today, the analysis (PDF), from the Boston-based think tank Tellus Institute, finds that 14 of 20 private Massachusetts institutions with large endowments did business with companies affiliated with their trustees in two recent fiscal years.

The Boston Globe reports:

Such arrangements are widely considered to be conflicts of interest. Several of the 20 schools in the report, including Harvard University and Boston University, apparently did not fully disclose all the ties on forms required by the Internal Revenue Service and the state attorney general.

The Globe spoke with the president of the industry group for trustees, who said that possible conflicts “are not something that can always be avoided or that need to be fully avoided. The key is adhering to a policy to address them and taking transparency seriously.”

The report’s finding of 70 percent (14 of 20 certain Massachusetts institutions) is nearly three times the national average found by an earlier 2010 study.

The Tellus report was paid for by the Service Employees International Union, which represents workers at many of the state’s private colleges. As the Globe notes, “several of the colleges said the union sponsorship was itself a conflict of interest.”

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