Thompson Rivers University spent $37,262 last year to furnish the private home of its president so he could fulfill public duties related to his job, the Daily News has learned.
TRU confirmed Monday that more than 20 items, including chairs, tables, rugs and benches, were delivered to Alan Shaver's house in November 2011.
The items remain the property of the university and are meant to help Shaver meet his "contractual hosting duties," said university spokesperson Christopher Seguin.
"While (other) universities . . . provide their presidents a furnished home to live in and host, TRU has furnished the public spaces of the president's privately owned home to assist him with hosting institutional events," said Seguin.
But students facing tuition and parking fee increases next year are finding the furniture expense difficult to accept.
"I don't think that's right, personally, because that money could be used somewhere a lot more useful," said 19-year-old Jessi Jack, a second-year social work student.
"He could purchase his own furniture and not use the TRU budget for his own personal use."
As TRU's president, Shaver is expected to host international dignitaries, community receptions, alumni events, among others, at his private residence.
Institutions such as Simon Fraser University, the University of the Fraser Valley and the University of B.C. provide their presidents with a house on campus. But TRU doesn't own a presidential house.
In fact, board chair Fiona Chan says the university wanted to build Shaver a residence but he felt it was an unnecessary expense.
Shaver declined Monday to speak publicly on the issue.
TRU says the $37,000 came from the university's recruitment fund — part of the operating budget — and three-quarters of the total furniture purchase was made locally, but officials did not give specifics.
As for the hosting expectations placed on TRU's president, those are nothing new to universities, said Seguin.
University of Northern B.C. spokesperson Rob Vanadrichem said Prince George requires its university president to host one or two gatherings a month, sometimes more, as part of his duties to recruit students and donors.
"It a big part of the job," said Vanadrichem.
UNBC pays for all direct expenses related to those gatherings, such as catering, but not capital costs, like furniture.
At the University of the Fraser Valley, spokesperson Anne Russell said their president lives on campus in a house owned by UFV. He hosts gatherings almost weekly as part of his job obligations.
These events are more than just parties, added UNBC's Vanadrichem.
With dwindling government funding, universities are facing increasing pressure to court donors and students — and much of that pressure falls on their presidents.
"These organizations become so large, so diverse that this really becomes a huge part of the president's job," said Vanadrichem.
"Basically it's a PR job and whether it's fundraising or student recruitment, student retention, alumni relations or government relations, those are all big parts of the job."
The Daily News contacted the students' union at TRU and the faculty association for comment about the university's furniture purchase but neither group responded as of deadline Monday.
Meanwhile, the TRU chair said she has no trouble defending the purchase to critics. Chan said Shaver is the lowest-paid university president in B.C. because of a salary restriction imposed by the provincial government.
Shaver earned $136,000 from September 2010 to March 2011.
Chan said that's well below what Shaver is worth.
"He's doing a fantastic job for us," she said. "And I know for a fact there are a lot of people who want him to move somewhere else to work for them. He has been headhunted."
Chan said the board wishes it could pay Shaver more.
"It has been difficult, in that sense, that we are not able to pay him the market rate."