I’ve taken myself off most Williams mailing because the College financial situation and its causes are too discouraging. The Achilles Heel of 501 (c)3 nonprofit corporations is the lack of public accountability. A fundraising e-mail from Williams slipped through my defenses the other day. No mention of any lessons learned. I stipulate here that I have no reason to believe other than that those governing Williams are honest people committed to good work for the right reasons. Something is missing, though, in the discussions.

My reply to Williams:

Hi. I am a very nice person. I love my Williams education and use it
every day. You have hit a sore spot, I’m afraid. I thought I had removed
myself from mailings and all, but here you are. I know you are doing hard,
honest work in what you believe to be a good cause. It’s because I think
more people need educations as good as ours, that I reply. You may have a
voice.

Regarding a donation to Williams —

No thanks.

1.) Over the past decade and more, Williams has built and built and built.
The Baxter/Paresky debacle was the last straw for me. That was before I
saw the Humanities Center, whatever that is. The Williams enrollment is no
bigger and may be even a little smaller than in 1976 (or 1980). I work in
higher education. Some even consider me knowledegable about higher
education. Now I hear there is discussion on campus about what to do with
all the flat-screen monitors in Paresky, which seem to be just sitting
there. If Baxter had run its course, so be it. Go green. Tear it down
and plant a garden. Every square foot of new space increases operating
costs.

2.) For years all these generous people have been giving money to
Williams. How many nights did Morty spend away from his family, out on the
road fundraising? And raising a lot of money. Williams had in its
endowment enough money, assuming enrollments no greater than 2,000, to live
happily ever after, even eliminating tuition. (I have an MBA. My
assumptions are sound here, though others have honest assumptions and may
disagree.) What do the current trustees do? They put most of the
endowment in high-risk, high testosterone investments. I’ve heard the
allocation was as high as 80%.

What happened? Hundreds of millions of dollars vanish, not because of the
economy but because Williams trustees took way too much risk. The evidence
that it was too much? The panic spending cuts. Charlie Ellis of Greenwich
Associates, hardly a radical, says in Endowment 101 that people and
institutions should keep about five years worth of known expenses in cash
and bonds. Precisely to avoid what’s happening at Williams.

3.) Greg Avis and Mike Eisenson, head of the investment committee, owe the
Williams community an explanation and perhaps even more. Has anyone on the
board stepped down over this fiscal fiasco?

The values of Williams will endure. I’m afraid a donation today is bad
money after good.

Wick Sloane ’76

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email