Donald Trump Jr. event through Kuehne Series raised less funds than UNT reported

Donald Trump Jr. event through Kuehne Series raised less funds than UNT reported

Donald Trump Jr. event through Kuehne Series raised less funds than UNT reported
December 07
00:56 2017

The UNT Kuehne Speaker Series earned a net total of $88,319 from the Donald Trump Jr. event hosted on Oct. 24, according to documents obtained by the North Texas Daily through a public records request.

However, that figure is 73.4 percent less than the $332,000 UNT publicized as the amount raised solely as a result of the Trump Jr. event. In a university-wide email sent on Nov. 29, a press release claimed the series had “raised a record $332,000” due to the Trump Jr. event.

UNT has also not been subtracting expenses for the Melissa Francis event scheduled for March 2018 in the announced $332,000 figure, but has included income from it.

More than four years since its conception, the Kuehne Speaker Series has contributed a total of $50,000 to offset scholarships, just over two percent of the roughly $2.2 million the Kuehne Series currently has at its disposal. The Kuehne Series gave its first contribution of $50,000 to offset scholarships this year.

The $2.2 million the series now possesses is divided between a fund which acts as an endowment containing lifetime member donations, and an operating account which receives all other donations and from which expenses are paid.

Since the series’ expenses come from donations going into the operating account, a large portion of them come from various UNT departments. For the 2016-2017 season, over a quarter of the total income came from various UNT departments, which buy tables in the form of sponsorships for either $5,000 or $10,000. The $1.6 million in the separate lifetime member endowment fund is invested to accrue interest.

“The lifetime membership funds are raised to support scholarships,” said UNT spokesperson Kelley Reese. “By investing those funds, the university earns more money in perpetuity rather than taking the money and distributing it one time.”

The $50,000 towards scholarships, which was given to the President’s Excellence fund this fall, came from the operating account. According to Reese, the endowment fund had $1.6 million available as of September 2017. The endowment fund has never been used for any other purpose than investment.

UNT officials did not comment on how the money was being invested in an email sent Wednesday.

The series has netted an average of $61,467 per event prior to this season, 30% less than the amount raised by the Trump Jr. event. Costs for the Trump Jr. speech came to a total of $249,680, more than triple the $76,743 event cost average for the series.

Where the money goes

The money raised from lifetime members’ donations to the series goes into “a fund which acts as an endowment,” Reese said. Though the fund, which was created in 2016, is called the “Lifetime Member Endowment Fund,” the fund is not an actual endowment, which means Kuehne Speaker Series board members are legally able to use the money for purposes other than simply investment. The board has invested $900,000 from the fund since early 2016 and earned $9,229.

The series is promoted as benefitting scholarships, and in the most recent statement from Nov. 29, it is referred to in a variety of ways: that it raises money through the endowment fund for scholarships, that the fund supports scholarships and that the fund gave money to offset the university’s investment in national merit scholarships.

In fact, the fund — which is not an endowment — made its first ever contribution to the President’s Excellence Fund in September in order to offset the university’s cost in supporting national merit scholars.

The money will benefit five of 55 national merit scholars currently enrolled at UNT, all of whom receive full-ride scholarships. Each four-year scholarship costs between $118,000 and $170,000, depending on residency.

Cost of attendance and exclusivity

The majority of students were not able to attend the Trump Jr. event because of the lack of individual tickets and the price per table, which were reserved for sponsors only.

“I’m frustrated with the idea that anybody that isn’t a sponsor isn’t allowed to go,” said Alexia Johnson, a public relations junior at UNT. “If it’s affiliated with UNT, why aren’t students and student organizations or news outlets able to be there to write about what’s taking place?”

Entry to the Kuehne Series event was only available as sponsorships, with the lowest cost being a $5,000 annual sponsorship for an eight-person table. Sponsors could also pay up to a maximum of $100,000, with various benefits for sponsoring the event. Premier-seating tables, invitations to a VIP breakfast with the featured speaker and VIP reception invitations including photos with the speaker were among the perks provided for more expensive sponsorships. There were also $10,000 and $20,000 sponsorship options.

“The Kuehne Speaker Series is not designed as a speaker series for students, it’s designed to raise money for student scholarships,” UNT spokesperson Deborah Leliaert said as previously reported by the North Texas Daily in October. “It is funded and attended by the donors and table sponsors.”

Event background and reception from students

The Kuehne series is named after UNT alumnus Ernie Kuehne and has a history of inviting conservative speakers. Other speakers include Charles Gasparino, senior correspondent for FOX Business Network, Andrea Tantaros, former co-host of “Outnumbered,” and “The Five,” on FOX and former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani. FOX Business Network host Melissa Francis will be speaking in the Spring semester.

The initial outcry from the Trump Jr. event took place on social media when the Daily broke the news that he would be a speaker in the 2017 Kuehne Speaker Series. Current students and alumni alike were vocal about the decision, with some supporting it and others confused as to how or why Trump Jr. was selected to be a speaker in the series.

I think people from all points of view, including conservative speakers, should be invited to speak on campus to help spark a discussion,” said Daniela Ibarra, interim president for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. “Considering how diverse and liberal-leaning UNT’s student body is, I think most people saw Trump Jr’s invitation to speak at a UNT-related event was kind of a slap in the face. I think the announcement brought up a lot of the same feelings felt the days after the 2016 election — anger and resentment.”

Opposition from UNT Faculty and President

Students were not the only people who criticized the decision to have Donald Trump Jr. invited to speak as part of the Kuehne Speaker Series. In September, UNT faculty members signed an open letter denouncing the event and calling for the UNT Board of Regents to rescind Trump Jr’s invitation. The letter states Trump Jr. does not represent the values of UNT and the community.

Over 100 faculty members signed the letter.

Shortly before the event, The Dallas Morning News reported UNT President Neal Smatresk had opposed Trump Jr. based on emails they obtained via public information requests.

However, with only conservative speakers, the Kuehne Speaker Series has not yet cultivated the diverse facets that UNT has actively aimed to represent.

In the original invitation from the university, it was detailed Donald Trump Jr. would be allowed to have a VIP breakfast with “like-minded individuals,” as part of the paid sponsorships. These individuals would also be allowed to take photos and ask questions with Trump Jr., made up of mostly Kuehne Speaker Series Lifetime members.

Aside from the $100,000 cost to have Trump Jr. speak at the event, UNT paid $125,000 to host the event at AT&T Stadium. The university also paid $4,000 for hotel rooms and overnight parking, and $2,000 for Trump’s airfare. $1,000 was also used for security, although it was not made clear if secret service would be accommodated for as well. UNT spent nearly $250,000 on the event.

Lack of Media Access

Donald Trump Jr. addressed media, higher education and free speech during his speech, but no press passes were given to any media outlets for the event. Any coverage of the story came from media that were able to actually get into the event due to sponsoring.

A copy of the executed contract between the university and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for the 2016-2017 season shows the contract permitted local media to report on the event but not to record audio.

“The Kuehne Speaker Series has historically been open only to the guests of table sponsors,” UNT spokesperson Kelley Reese said in an email to the Daily in October. “This year’s series events will be no different.”

Featured image: Donald Trump Jr. poses for a photo during an event through the Kuehne Speaker Series on Oct. 24 at AT&T Stadium. Sarah Sarder. 

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Sarah Sarder and Amir Gooden

Sarah Sarder and Amir Gooden

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  1. Trump supporter
    Trump supporter December 07, 09:21

    Please give up your Donald Trump Jr. bashing. That’s all it is, because you hate him and your bias shows through in your reporting. That is unprofessional. And I’ll say it again – The Kuehne Speaker Series is a PRIVATE event, and media are NOT entitled to be invited to it. Grow up and quit your whining, snowflake! If you are what the journalism school is producing, then I’m ashamed of the journalism school.

    Reply to this comment
    • David Riewe
      David Riewe December 07, 16:22

      What is biased in the facts about the profits reported here? Either the figures are correct or they are not.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Sean H
    Sean H December 07, 13:55

    UNT reported the Trump Jr. event hosted by the Kuehne Series was the highest grossing event to date, which is factually correct.

    It always sounds better to report your gross revenue compared to your profit because the gross revenue numbers tend to be so much bigger.

    Reply to this comment

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