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Sox Diary: 10-31-04

Sunday, October 31, 2004: Today was supposed to be the day. Game 7 of the 2004 World Series was scheduled for October 31, Halloween night. When I started this diary, I fully anticipated that the long, draining, marvelous journey would end tonight, one way or the other. When I first started out, I perhaps romantically thought that it would come down to a Cubs-Sox matchup. It really never crossed my mind that if the Sox made it this far it would not go the full seven – that is simply the Red Sox way. Instead, here I sit four days after the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series.

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Swiftboats on WSO

Make of it what you will. We covered this topic at some length two months ago. Jason Leith ’03 notes that

It saddens me to hear that this is a legitimate topic for the high-school classroom.

Spoken like someone who has not read a word about what the Swiftvets and POW’s actually have to say.

Happy Halloween!

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Phi Beta Kappa

The College has announced the 25 Phi Beta Kappas for the class of 2005. (Another 25 or so will be admitted in the spring.) These are, more or less, the 25 students with the highest GPA’s in the class.

Five of the students are double majors in economics and mathematics. Back in the day, I don’t think that there were five math/econ double majors in the whole class, much less in PBK. As we often note at EphBlog, the Math Department is one of the great success stories at Williams over the last 20 years. I also hope that some of the economics students are working on theses. The Economics Department did great work in distributing last year’s theses and I have no doubt that Steve Sheppard and Co will do a similarly fine job this time around.

I wonder why the math department doesn’t do the same?

In any event, congratulations to all concerned.

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Cass ’05 on Marcus

Oren Cass ’05 reports on the Marcus/D’Souza debate that I commented on previously.

Marcus responed by saying (get ready for this) “I’m not looking to win this debate, I’m looking to win votes.” Ah, get a whiff of the intellectually rarified and pure air up here in the Ivory Tower. I can’t think of anything sufficiently snide to do his comment justice.

I don’t know if these are the only two things that Marcus got wrong. It would seem improbable that the things I happen to know about are the things he got wrong, and everything I don’t know about he got right. The Israel test (which states “if a newspaper messes up coverage on Israel, which I am qualified to notice, then they’re probably messing up on other stuff too”) suggests Marcus was probably fudging the data elsewhere.

But then, to quote him at one point, “The facts never speak for themselves.”

If I want to hear ideologues spout half-truths and non-sequiturs with rhetorical flourish, I’ll turn on cable news. I had hoped for more from a member of the faculty.

We all do.

Of course, without being there, it is tough to know if Cass’s comments are fair and balanced. Does anyone know if a transcript of the debate is available?

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Drezner ’90 for Kerry

Dan Drezner ’90, Eph blogger extraordinaire, is voting for Kerry. Most interesting bit:

I prefer a leader who has a good decision-making process, even if his foreign policy instincts are skewed in a direction I don’t like, over a leader who has a bad decision-making process, even if his foreign policy instincts are skewed in a direction I do like.

Vote for the better bureaucrats! I’m inspired. Presumably, it all depends on the amount of the skew. That is, if Kerry believed in an approach to foreign policy that was different enough, Drezner wouldn’t vote for him even if Kerry’s staff featured a collection of excellent paper pushers. [Sandy Berger? — ed. Pushers, not stuffers nor stealers.]

Perhaps it is a common opinion in the academy that one should vote for the person with the “better decision-making process,” but it seems stupid to me. We want people who know how to run a meeting? Who make sure that everyone has read the latest copy of Foreign Affairs? Who organize their Powerpoint presentations well?

Drezner must be a big fan of Action Item, professional superhero.

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Hart’s Candy

Sarah Hart ’02 reports on her top ten Halloween candies. She also notes that:

when we were younger, after trick or treating, my sister and i would carefully lay out everything on the kitchen table and sort it. some trading would take place, but not much. and we would eat, at the max, like 2 pieces, because for us the main goal of halloween was: how long can you make your candy last? often it was until, like, april.

My daughters lack this sort of discipline. [Because they get candy all year round? — ed. Not my call.]

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Sox Diary (Part 3): 10-28-04

(2:40 pm) There is no rational reason why the performance of a baseball team should make me this happy. Of course for all of the pain and suffering they’ve put me, us, through, I guess maybe we’ve earned some elation.

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Sox Diary (Part 2): 10-28-04

(10:13 am): (An email I sent to myself this morning at 4:12 am):

First impressions:

We did it.

We finally did it.

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Sox Diary: 10-28-04 (One of Many)

Thursday, October 28, 2004: So this is what pure unadulterated joy feels like.

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Conference on Liberal Arts

There was a pretty interesting conference on “Liberal Arts Colleges in American Higher Education” last fall at Williams. Alas, I could not find any of the papers on the web. I would be especially interested to read “The Future of Liberal Arts Colleges” by former Williams President John Chandler. Does anyone know where to find a copy, or even how to contact President Chandler? I’d be interested know what he had to say.

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Letters from Iraq Part VIII

New Letter from Felipe. The first part of the letter deals with the aftermath of the attack on Felipe’s team. The second half of the letter describes a typical work week. It sounds like he has settled into some type of groove: work behind the walls; perform basic maintenance; get shot at beyond the walls; and watch many pirated movies (Disclaimer: I doubt soldiers stationed in Iraq are the best source of movie reviews. Furthermore, Felipe’s taste in movies is unlikely to be representative of the armed services in general. In other words, rent the movies Felipe endorses at your own peril).

Date: Thursday, 28 October 2004

Subject: Two weeks in the life…

Wednesday, October 13th: Norah Jones. Jack Daniels. Stare at the night.

Thursday, October 14th: Stevie Wonder. Coffee. Stare at the day. All operations shut down. Scan New York Times for mention of our attack. Relieved/ confused/ insulted/ saddened to see two sentences, six paragraphs in. Just another ambush. Just another two soldiers.

Friday, October 15th: Rise before dawn. Watch the sunrise. Run. Spend the morning at an “After Action Review,” piecing together Wednesday’s story. See what we did right. See what we could have done better. Comforted to know we performed “well.” Sad to realize it wasn’t enough. Happy Ramadan.

Saturday, October 16th: Combat stress counseling. Us, the Army shrinks, and the Chaplain. We speak of rage, fear, sleeplessness, guilt, melancholy. We feel a little better afterwards.

Sunday, October 17th: Church. 426th well-represented. Realized I needed to talk with God in private. Movie Night. Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Sean Penn is an awesome stoner.

Monday, October 18th: Write, re-write, edit, re-edit letter to loved ones. Hard. Movie Night. Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. Sandra Bullock isccute. I get misty.

Tuesday, October 19th: Memorial Service. Chosen as an honor guard. Get up early to iron uniform. Wear my new boots. Participate in the 21 gun salute. Three weeks of drill and ceremony practice at basic training no longer seems pointless. Want to thank my old drill seargants. Cry during taps. Closure begins. I sleep peacefully that night.

Wednesday, October 20th: Game on. Time to get back to work. Spend most of my day at realultimatepower.net. Spend all night on guard duty. Jerked into alertness at 3am by the eerie/ beautiful call to prayer and breakfast coming at me in super-stereo from the 3 mosques in my sector.

Thursday, October 21st: Sox beat Yankees. Sweet. Sleep all day. Wake at up to the sound of afternoon mortars. Insurgents have terrible aim. Movie Night. Bridget Jones’s Diary. Laughed out loud.

Friday, October 22nd: 4 weeks down. 40 to go. Repair our Humvee. Busted headlight, flat tire. That’s it. Amazing. Impelled to save the shrapnel I yank from the rubber. Borrow a guitar that night. Learn to play Foo Fighters “Times Like These.” Wallow in self-satisfaction. Movie Night. Anger Management. Squirm. Occasionally laugh.

Saturday, October 23rd: Guard duty. Day shift. Get so bored I exercise, helmet on head, vest on back, rifle in hand, gun on hip. Later make friends listen to me play “Times Like These.” They are more amused than impressed.

Sunday, October 24th: Battalion softball game. I hit 5 RBIs and field 2 fly balls. My team wins. 28 years of athletic failure evaporates in one dusty afternoon. To celebrate, treat my friends to a rousing “Times Like These.” They are more tolerant than amused.

Monday, October 25th: Get back to work on economic survey. Feel pretty smart. Movie Night. Real Women Have Curves. Loved it. Miss my sisters. Friends make me give back guitar.

Tuesday, October 26th: Order a guitar online. Help inventory boots and uniforms for Iraqi National Guard. Movie Night. Wimbledon. Predictable but pleasant. DVD copy includes big head of patron sitting in front of movie pirate.

If you’ve read this far, you must be pretty bored. Thanks for caring.

Much love,
Felipe

Hang in there, Felipe. Letters from caring Ephs will help ease the tedium.

SPC Perez, Felipe
426th CA BN
APO, AE 09334

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Sox Diary: 10-27-04

Wednesday, October 27, 2004: Is this the day? Is this the day we have all been waiting for? Is this the night when the Boston Red Sox win the World Series? I get chills thinking about it. We’ve been waiting for this moment for all our lives.

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Cass ’05 for Bush

Since not a single member of the faculty will make the case for Bush, the responsibility for educating Record readers about “How the other half lives” falls to Oren Cass ’05. He concludes with:

Appreciating the various positions on various issues, and the room for disagreement, is harder than just reflexively ignoring the other side, hard enough that even our distinguished faculty has declined the opportunity. Simply wrapping oneself in a cocoon of liberalism is comfortable, but also close-minded. There is nothing sophisticated about ignorance.

Indeed.

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Record on Morty/Marsh

The Record provides a sloppy update on Morty’s role on the board of Marsh. Highlights:

Because the company remains under investigation, Schapiro declined to comment on the details of the Board’s role. In an e-mail to the Record, Schapiro wrote, “It has been challenging times for MMC since before I joined the board, but I continue to have confidence that the company can work its way out of its difficulties while being faithful to both its shareholders and to its 55,000 employees.”

This is appropriate. There is no way that Schapiro (or any member of the board) can or should answer questions, from the Record or the New York Times, about the business of the board. Once you agree to be on a board, you need to play by the rules. However, there are a lot of questions that Morty should answer but which the Record seems not to have asked. See below.

Schapiro also indicated that his obligations to MMC will not detract from his time commitments to the College. “Given that I am already there [in Manhattan] several times a month on Williams business, it has been easy for me to schedule Williams events when I am in New York anyway,” he wrote.

Huh? Does this mean that Morty gets told that the Marsh board is meeting on day X and, so knowing that he needs to be New York City on day X, schedules some event at the Williams Club? If there were no board meeting, he wouldn’t have had the Williams event? That seems vaguely suspect. When Morty goes to NYC for both Williams and Marsh events, who pays for the travel?

“It’s a broader exposure for the person in that job — that is, it broadens that person’s perspective,” said Paul Neely ’68, a member of the College’s Board of Trustees.

Great! So why is Morty only on one corporate board? Why not 2 or 3 or 6? I guess that my question about board service is the same as my question about salary. Assume that the status quo is fine. At what point should I start to worry? Tell me now where the problems would begin.

Again, I feel less strongly about board memberships for senior administrators than I do about salaries. If the College amended the faculty handbook appropriately, I would have few grounds for complaint.

“[Schapiro’s positions] also projects Williams more broadly. I find that in the various boards I serve on, I become better in primary roles because of my breadth of experience in secondary roles,” he said.

Projecting Williams “more broadly” is fine and dandy, I guess, but who is Neely kidding? How many people knew, 2 weeks ago, that Morty served on Marsh’s board? Answer: virtually no one. Of course, there is a sense that, the more that Morty hangs out in the boardrooms of power, the more “broadly” Williams is projected, but this seems a thin reed.

You don’t have to be a leftist to think that the elite of every society has a tendency to view the perks of power as more than perks, as norms that make everyone better off. If Morty served on no boards, he would do an X good job as president of Williams. I am ready to believe that board service does not materially impede his performance. X is still X.

I find it much harder to believe that Morty does an X + 10% good job because Marsh pays hime $100,000+ per year ($500 or so per hour) to worry about its problems. Board membership may not hurt, but could it possibly help?

When asked whether Schapiro’s obligations to MMC risk distracting him from the College, Neely chuckled, “He works so hard and with so much energy that even if MMC takes him away for four days in the span of three weeks, you wouldn’t even notice.”

He chuckled? Again, I stand second to none is my praise of Morty’s energy and performance, but this is a bit much.

My main complaint with the article is that it (seemingly) fails to ask the important questions, of both Morty and others. (To be fair, perhaps the author did try to do all of the below, but didn’t get anywhere.)

Questions for Morty:

1) How much time have you spent in 2004 on MMC business?

2) What is your total annual compensation from MMC?

3) How many days did you meet on MMC business outside of Williamstown (including days on which you also had Williams business in that location)?

4) Would you describe your involvement with Marsh as “modest”?

Questions for Neely (or some other trustee)

1) Would it be OK if Morty served on 2 or 3 or 6 corporate boards?

2) What do you say to your fellow alumni who think that the President of Williams ought to devote his full (paid) energies to the betterment of Williams?

3) Do you think that the provisions of the faculty handbook proscribing more than “modest involvement” in outside paying actitivities apply to Morty?

But the key problem with the article was the failure to quote/find any critics of the whole situation. You can bet that there are alumni (and even faculty members) who think that the whole situation stinks. (I am not one of those, but they are out there.) Why didn’t the Record talk to them?

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Allison Davis ’24

A recent College news release featured this tidbit:

The Allison Davis Lecture, sponsored by the Oakley Center for the Humanities and Social Sciences, commemorates the pioneering work of Allison Davis, valedictorian of the class of 1924, in the social anthropological study of class and caste in the American South.

I have never heard of Allison Davis ’24. Sure would be nice if his work were on-line. Putting it there, perhaps along with commentary from current professors/students, would probably be a better use of College resources then sponsoring another lecture.

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Sox Diary: 10-26-04

Tuesday, October 26, 2004: Two days have rarely seemed to have taken so long. And in two days the mind can play tricks on you. Especially when the mind has accomplices.

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Ode to Diana

Diana Davis ’07 has an Ode to Bush. Personally, I much prefer her Ode to Williams, but your mileage may vary.

She is also looking for comments on the substance. Provide them at your own peril. She complains that Bush has sent “coalition troops to fight an unjust war.” I understand disagreement with the Iraq War, but does Diana also disagree with the decision to invade Afganistan? And, if not, why not?

Just curious.

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Baseball Conspiracy

Theodore Wiles ’08 has a theory.

[T]he recent alumnus coming forward to give the school baseball dugouts seems a little convenient. I mean I have no doubt that Williams could have come up with the money somehow (we DO have practically the largest endowment anywhere, or so I hear), so it sounds like not paying for the dugouts was kind of an underhanded fund-raising scheme. Getting some alumni to pay for dugouts would, I imagine, be easier then getting some alumni to put a comparable sum in the general endowment fund. So I think Williams said it couldn’t afford it, held the baseball team hostage, and then some alumnus thought that the situation was SO dire that Williams HAD to have the money.

Comments:

1) Williams endowment, although large in absolute terms, is not that large on a per student basis.

2) Fund raising is a tricky business. Donors want to see their money going to something concrete. Fund raisers like to make donors happy.

3) To the extent that you wanted to peddle conspiracy theories, I would look more to current parents. A great way to raise money from parents — who are much less likely to give then alums — is to pitch the gift as benefitting their son/daughter directly. I think that a fair amount of the money for the new turf field was raised by parents of current lacrosse players, for example. I suspect that those parents would have been much less likely to pony about for more books in the library.

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Unwired

Reed Wiedower ’00 noted this commentary about the Forbes listing of Williams as being a relatively unwired campus. Goodness knows that the performance of the IT department at Williams is one near and dear to EphBlog readers. But I am more interested in the Dredzwork site where the comment is posted. It looks quite interesting, but I am having trouble picking out the Eph connections . . .

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Troubled

Having established my bonifides as chief publicist of the Morty Schapiro fan club, I feel comfortable highlighting this commentary from a concerned alum.

I am troubled by the fact that Morty is on the board of Marsh. This company has shown an incredible lack of ethics and principles and is an another of example of business ethics taking a backseat to greed. My biggest concern today is the lack of respect for principle and values that the young people have in the way they conduct their lives. If we are not living our lives by principles and values then we can only by driven by our selfish interests which is a recipe for disaster in this country.

I am deeply concerned that the president of Willams, who represents our college, is on a board of directors for a company that egregiously violated business ethics. As a small business owner, I disdain the fact that powerful companies feel they are above the law and principles that capitalism is based on. Marsh and McLennan is an example of a big company using paybacks, bribes and threats to line their pockets at the expense of unsuspecting small businesses.

Morty needs to tell the Williams College community, and especially the current students, if he was aware of these busines practices. If his lawyers advise him not to talk he should tell us that. How he handles this situation with the Williams community should determine his future at Williams. If he doesn’t practice what he preaches on the subject of ethics then his future comments will fall on deaf ears.

I have closed off the comments on the end of the previous thread (and corrected two typos in the above). My thoughts:

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In Praise of Morty

Some readers have taken me to task for my coverage of President Schapiro’s service on the board of directors of Marsh & Mclennan as well as my related comments on Dean Roseman’s work on the board of St Paul Travelers. Feedback, as always, is welcome.

But this criticism also provides me with an excuse to document a claim that I have made before. No one has written more public words of praise of Morty’s performance than I have. To recap: Among the many reasons why Morty has been an outstanding president of Williams are:

his support of First Days; his positive influence in decreasing the number of admissions tips; his insights about the rise in merit-based scholarships; his ability to explain a collective action problem; his competence in handling campus controversies; his representation of the College in the national media; his choices with regard to the College’s Bicentential Medals; his deep concern about the quality of a Williams education; his expertise on issues of the financing of higher education; his skill as a writer; his honorable intentions; his interest in match-making; his teaching ability; knowing the words to The Mountains; his support of the tutorial program; his interaction with College Council; his helpfulness with alumni questions; his selection of campus speakers. And on and on.

Of course, I don’t know for a fact that Morty deserves credit for everything on this list. Perhaps, behind the scenes, he was against the improvements in the First Days program. Also, some of these compliments are more substantitive than others. Still, as best I can tell from a distance, Morty has done an excellent job as president of Williams. I do not expect that Williams will be lucky enough to have a significantly better president in my lifetime.

None of this is inconsistent, I think, with my recent commentary. Just because Morty has done a wonderful job in general over the past 5 years is no reason to believe that he is right about everything. Either the faculty handbook should be amended to make it clear that non-modest outside employment — such as board service at large companies — is allowed or Morty (and Dean Roseman) should resign their board memberships.

I am still uncertain which of these two outcomes would be better for the College.

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Sox Diary: 10-25-04

Monday, October 25, 2004: OK, Derek, don’t get too worked up yet. Don’t start talking about a lifetime as a Sox fan and being on the brink and what this all feels like. DO NOT, I repeat, do not, start wondering what a Boston victory parade will be like, or how it will feel to finally have done it, or what Dan Shaughnessy or Bob Ryan or Peter Gammons or for that matter Buster Olney will have to say. And for the love of God, do not start looking at the list of free agents on the roster and whom we will sign and whom we will not and in any case what do you think the odds of repeating are.

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Keating ’62 Knows Google

The next time that EphBlog needs to do a background check on one of the thousands of applicants seeking to join us as an author, we’ll be sure to call Williams Trustee Michael Keating ’62.

Leaders of industry, proud alumni, and longtime professors are among the volunteers who will search for the new chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Boston, but the 19-member search committee also includes Boston attorney Michael B. Keating, who brings a unique perspective on recent UMass history. A partner at Foley Hoag LLP with degrees from Williams College and Harvard Law School, Keating was hired by the UMass system trustees last year to review the congressional testimony of former UMass president William M. Bulger about his gangster brother, Whitey (Keating found Bulger was ”candid,” if imprecise at times), and to advise them on the surrounding controversy. After Bulger resigned, Keating performed background checks on the finalists vying to replace him.

Candid but imprecise — a new motto for EphBlog?

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Baxter History?

The man, not the building.

The College has a nice page about the 16 men that have served as president of Williams. Especially good is the section on Jack Sawyer ’39, thanks to an entry written by Professor Hodge Markgraf ’52. Alas, the other entries are spotty. There is nothing about Phinney Baxter, president from 1937 — 1961 and perhaps the man most responsible for turning Williams into a top tier liberal arts College.

That seems a shame.

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Weekend at Morty’s

For those wondering how Morty’s weekend went, the New York Times has details.

Jeffrey Greenberg will almost certainly be gone. But his company, Marsh & McLennan, has a good chance of surviving as long as its outside directors understand that Mr. Greenberg’s resignation is not the last, but the first change they will have to make.

The independent directors of Marsh are now running the company and deciding its legal strategies.

But they are waiting to announce Mr. Greenberg’s departure until they have both decided on his successor and can present a package of reforms to show Mr. Spitzer that they are serious about changing the company’s culture.

And here I thought that Morty was busy “running” Williams. He’s even smarter than I thought!

So far, the directors have not finalized their decisions, according to the people close to the case. But directors continued to meet and discuss the situation over the weekend, and the board is expected to take action within days.

I wonder if the directors are all in New York or are meeting over the phone.

Again, I have been somewhat tough on Morty — a patient and inspired teacher to me 17 years ago — but the more you respect someone, the higher a standard you hold them too. As best I can tell, Morty and the other directors are doing what should be done, what needs to be done, to fulfill their fiduciary duties to the shareholders of Marsh. Whether or not those directors have done a very poor job over the prior 4 years is a more difficult question.

Again, the issue is not whether or not Morty is the world’s best or the world’s worst board member. (He is probably pretty darn good.) The issue is that the rules in the faculty handbook must apply to all the faculty at Williams, from the highest official to the most junior assistant professor.

Whatver else may be said about how Morty has spent his time over the last 10 days, “modest” does not begin to describe the efforts that he has devoted to Marsh and its shareholders.

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Calling Dad

Condolences to our fellow Eph Blogger, Eric Smith ’99, whose father died last week, 5 days before Eric’s wedding.

All good Eph sons and daughters should call their fathers right now. I just tried, but, alas, no answer.

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Sox Diary: 10-24-04

Sunday, October 24, 2004: It is far better to win ugly than it is to lose pretty. This is a good thing, because last night we won ugly. It was probably a fun game for the disinterested fan to watch – 11-9 games usually are. And it was good for Sox fans to see the guys face some adversity and continue to put the pressure on the cards. Every time they scored to make it close or tie it up, we put runs on the board. It must have been frustrating for cardinals’ fans. One thing is for sure – neither of these lineups will give pitchers much breathing room. To win this thing, we have to expect a lot of 11-9-type games.

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Prolegomenon

The Williams home page currently features this item:

Why the Adequate Theory of Everything Must Have Philosophical and Theological Aspects, as well as Natural-Scientific Ones, by Prof. Lorenz Puntel of the University of Munich.

Satire or serious? You make the call! Perhaps we need an EphBlog Theory of Everything. Calling Aidan!

Alas, Herr Puntel is very serious. Only recommended for those who like reading English written by Germans.

I hope that Alan White will forgive me for making fun of German philosophers . . .

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Modest Involvement

At the end of a previous thread, fellow EphBlogger David Nickerson ’97 asks:

Factual question: How much time does it take to serve on a corporate board? Don’t they just rubber stamp the actions of the CEO and CFO? Isn’t the inactivity of corporate boards part of the problem in corporate governance and oversight?

Asking how much time it takes to serve on a corporate board is like asking how much time it takes to study for classes in college. It varies. The more serious the school and the more responsible the student, the more time it takes. The same applies to corporate boards. If you are on the board of a serious company (large, publically traded) and are a diligent director it will take a fair amount of time. This is even more true if you serve on the company’s audit committee.

Professor Stephen M. Wallenstein claims (page 17) that “a large public board requires 200 to 250 hours a year of service.” Neil Minnow, co-founder and editor of the Corporate Library, says “18 days per year”.

That seems about right to me, although when disaster strikes (as it has for Marsh this month) these become dramatic underestimates.

Assume for a second that Schapiro and Roseman spend 200 hours a year on their board service. Given that each of them is compensated more than $100,000 per year, this would work out to a wage rate of more than $500 per hour. Nice work, if you can get it.

How can we square this with the faculty handbook’s requirement that:

Modest involvement in outside consulting and other similar remunerated activity is also permitted. Whenever such activity requires that the faculty member be absent from campus for the equivalent of more than eight weekdays per semester, permission of the Dean of the Faculty must be obtained.

I don’t think that we can. Whatever else may be said a job that requires 200 hours per year at a rate of $500 per hour, it can hardly be termed “modest involvement.”

Either the faculty handbook should be revised (perhaps just by removing the word “modest”) or Schapiro/Roseman should resign their board memberships. I am not sure which of these options I prefer, but I can’t see any other alternative. Rules are rules. They apply as much to the President and to the Dean as they do to the youngest assistant professor.

Those interested in more background reading about academics on corporate boards might try here or here.

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Impressive

The Wall Street Journal provides this update ($ req.) on the scandal at Marsh. Eph readers will be most interested in these sections.

The company’s 10 outside directors met on and off yesterday about aspects of the crisis, including Mr. Greenberg’s fate, people familiar with the matter said. The meetings followed the talks between some outside directors and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who sued Marsh last week and signaled his desire for Mr. Greenberg’s ouster. At the time, Mr. Spitzer publicly said Marsh directors “should think long and hard, very long and hard, about the leadership of your company.”

And here I thought that Morty was thinking long and hard about how to make Williams better. Silly me.

Several of Marsh’s outside directors have impressive credentials. The board includes Zachary Carter, a white-collar-crime defense attorney who was U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., during the Clinton administration; Robert F. Erburu, former chairman of Times Mirror Co.; Lord Lang of Monkton, a former member of the British Parliament; and Morton O. Schapiro, president of Williams College.

Nice to see Morty included in this list. Again, I suspect that Erburu was the person who got Morty the job. Of course, whoever got Morty the job did not care at all that Morty has no background in business nor any expertise in any of the businesses that Marsh operates in (insurance, investment management and consulting). So, why did they pick Morty? I don’t know. Where is the Record when we need it?

The Marsh board gets low marks from corporate watchdogs who track board governance. Corporate Library grades the Marsh board a “D” on a scale of A to F, meaning it ranks below 80% of the roughly 2,000 boards that Corporate Library studies. Institutional Shareholder Services ranks the Marsh board in the bottom 2% of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500. Governance Metrics International also gives Marsh’s board a below-average rating.

Note that Morty is on the Directors & Governance subcommittee of the board. In other words, to the extent that you think that the Marsh board is weak, you should assign Morty a fair portion of the blame. I am not sure how much faith to put in these sorts of measures.

I am still thinking through how I feel about board jobs for Williams faculty members like Schapiro and Roseman. But, there can be no denying the fact that Morty is spending a ton of time on this right now. Fortunately(!), he is well-compensated for it.

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