Emeritus Professor of Economics Dick Sabot was kind enough to send in these comments on the faculty handbook’s prohibition of anything more than “modest involvement” in paid outside employment. I was curious if he knew of where/when the guideline arose. I asked him because, besides being my professor, he was a founder of Tripod, the Eph-face of the dot.com boom.

I am not aware of that guideline. Perhaps it is new. A lot of my research was funded by the World Bank and other international organizations. I devoted a lot of my time to that work. It allowed me to be a highly productive researcher and, I believe, being on the cutting edge with my research made me a better teacher. However, I do not believe this guideline would have applied to me for the simple reason that I used outside funding to buy down my teaching time or to take unpaid leave. I rarely taught a full load at Williams because I was so engaged elsewhere.

Once I became involved with Tripod, I did the same thing. I would take unpaid leave so as to devote more time to outside activities.

Not only did my research make me a better teacher but, I think, teaching less made me a better teacher. I never suffered burnout. I always enjoyed what I was doing and was able to bring quite a bit of enthusiasm to the task and devote more time to my students.

I do not have much to offer about the current involvement of faculty in outside activities. My general inclination is to believe it is a good thing. It is all too easy for the faculty at Williams to be cut off from the outside world and become insular. My experience suggests that active engagement by faculty with the world outside Williams is potentially of great benefit to Williams students.

Many thanks to Sabot for taking the time to write. There is not much here that I would disagree with. My hope had been that he might be able to shed some light on where the phrase comes from. Knowing its origin would give us insight into its meaning and purpose. Consider that an original intent view of the Faculty Handbook.

In any event, I don’t know anyone who believes that serving as a responsible board member of a large company requires only “modest” time or effort. Previous commentary here, here and here.

Either the faculty handbook should be revised (to allow more than modest involvement or to exempt senior administrators) or Schapiro/Roseman should resign their positions. Reasonable Ephs may disagree over which option is best for Williams. I don’t really care, as long as the contradiction is resolved somehow.

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