Questions continue to swirl around San Jose State University and its Next Generation Technology Project, an intiative to upgrade the school’s wireless networks that is now two years behind schedule and over budget.
The issues surround a $28 million no-bid contract San Jose State awarded to Cisco — a major donor and employer with close ties to the campus president. The university is part of the publicly funded California State University system.
When pushed for answers regarding the contract by the San Jose Mercury News, the university has failed to respond, leading to more speculation about the validity of the contract.
“It certainly gives the impression that there’s something to hide or that they can ignore it and it will blow over,” Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said in an interview with the paper.
As one of the 23 universities within the California State system, San Jose State was required to conduct a feasibility study explaining how it encouraged “full and open competition” during a bid for large projects or justify why it awarded a sole source contract back in 2012. In its report, university officials did not give specific reasons for not soliciting other bids, but instead noted, “San Jose State executive management, along with Cisco leadership, spent a great amount of time discussing the synergies and benefits of a partnership,” according to the paper.
Shortly thereafter, the university awarded $16 million in equipment and services from Nexus, a Cisco reseller, to begin that project, which was expected to improve the school’s unreliable wireless network and phone system. The school promised to install the new system in 51 high-tech classrooms, each with the capacity to record lectures and interact virtually with people around the world.
To date, though, only five of those classes have been built, although officials have said the project tripled Internet speeds across campus in general. The paper also reported the school had a project that was in place and could have completed the upgrades at a cheaper cost.
So far, the school has yet to give an official answer.
Following an Oct. 5 report from the newspaper, the school has only published a list of questions and answers about the project on its website that are indirect and incomplete.
The Q-and-A was the answer to the newspaper’s questions, a campus spokeswoman told the Mercury News, but when pressed last week for direct answers, she said she understood that the administration was working on a more detailed response.
SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi also canceled a meeting with the newspaper’s editorial board in October and has not sought to reschedule it.
Despite the irregularities outlined by this newspaper, the CSU chancellor’s office says it is not investigating.
“The chancellor is aware of President Qayoumi’s vision for the campus, and he is also aware of the issues that were voiced by faculty and staff in your story,” said a statement from CSU spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp. “The chancellor continues to work with San Jose State leadership to assure best practices going forward that are consistent with policy.”