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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