Currently browsing the archives for December 2014
Enjoy the Holidays and please visit us during Winter Study!
From David Fehr:
I could have predicted the 7-2 start to our season but thought the “2” would have been road losses to Wesleyan and Springfield. We won both of those but opened the season with really hideous home losses to Southern VT and SUNY-Oneonta.
The schedule is screwy. Only 10 home games; four of the ten in the first 11 days of the season but then, following the MCLA game on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the Ephs are not at home for 45 days until Trinity and Amherst on January 9 & 10. Can’t remember a gap any where near that long. The consolation (for those of us willing to drive a little) was that after Thanksgiving we played three games in four nights in the Albany area. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth – lots of Big Macs on NY Route 7. And if you want to spend a week after Christmas in Eastern Mass., we play out there three times in six days.
I termed the season-opening losses “hideous.” 35% shooting and 21 turnovers v. S. VT and v. Oneonta, 9-for-33 3-point shooting, missing about 10 layups and being out rebounded by 12. We had a good overtime win at Wesleyan despite being badly beaten (again) on the glass because Daniel Wohl played 44 minutes and had a 25-14 double-double as he, Greenman and Rooke-Ley all were over 20. I missed the Springfield game and couldn’t understand how we won (shot just 33% and were outrebounded by 53-38). Then I saw it: Ephs made 8 more 3s than the Pride and we had just 4 turnovers. Shades of 2003 Final Four.
The big news on the court has been senior Hayden Rooke-Ley. He’s getting national recognition (nicely covered on the Williams’ website): The U.S. Basketball Writers Association is naming, for the first time, a D3 National Player of the Week and the first man ever named was our Hayden. The NCAA basketball website did a profile on Hayden as well after he set a new Division 3 record by opening the year by making 67 consecutive free throws (and, as he made his last 11 last year, 78 in a row over two seasons). Hayden is 97.2% from the line in 9 games. He’s not the only Eph who can make them: The team, at 85.0%, is second in the country (Wheaton [IL] is 86.6%).
But Hayden also shoots the three ball. Our first win of the season was over a really, really bad Johnson State (VT) team (Williams by 35). Rooke–Ley took 15 shots, all from beyond the arc in the corner. He made 12 to set a new Williams record. He seemed to be unguarded on all 15. Hayden said (he was in a class I audited) “They must have seen my stat line from the Oneonta game [a woeful 0-9] and decided to leave me alone.”
But he really went nuts at RPI, scoring 31 points in the first half and 43 for the game. I charted his shooting: He opened the game making his first five shots, 2 driving layups and then 3 3-pointers. A missed layup was followed by a made 3, a missed 3, 4 straight made 3s, a missed 3 and a made 3 before the buzzer. 31 on 11-14 shooting. He “cooled off” in the second half with “just” 12 points but the game had already been decided.
It’s hard to know how good this team is. They have no real inside presence and I long for the Sheehy/Paulsen teams that frequently were among the nation’s best in rebounding margin (see attached chart). Their defense is just so-so. Still, if the opposition keeps fouling, we’ll make those free throws. If we can take care of the ball, our overall shooting – not as good as in the most recent seasons but still pretty darn good — will win quite a few games. Against Amherst? Probably not. Away games in NESCAC? I worry. The Ephs seem to have calmed down following the bad start and Coach App’s substitution patterns have become less frantic. Those of you who predicted 5-to-7 losses are probably still in the hunt for the Big Prize.
I’ll send another update around the end of January; by then we should know what we have and whether we have a legitimate shot at the NESCAC tournament.
For the benefit of future historians, here are the e-mails sent out to announce Mountain Day this fall.
The trees on the hills beckon us with their multi-colored glory, with the promise of the sun to warm us. Let’s heed their call. It’s Mountain Day.
The mountains are older than all of us. They remind us, through their enduring presence and subtle beauty, that our unity as people is fundamental, far more meaningful than the differences that we sometimes allow to divide us. On this day, particularly as some among us look forward to Eid al-Adha and Yom Kippur beginning this evening, let us cherish, contemplate and embody the values of diversity and deep caring for each other on which our community is founded.
And let us do so together, in the embrace of our mountains.
President and Professor
1) Is there are an archive of all the all-campus e-mails that have been sent out? I would hope that the Williams Archives would keep track of such documents (even electronic ones) and make them publicly available. Pointers welcome.
2) Does Adam Falk write these himself? No worries if he does not. Presidents are busy people and he would not be the first or only college president who gets some help with his writing.
3) Either way, “The mountains are older than all of us.” is a nice thought. But maybe a bit tighter?
“The mountains are older than we are.”
“The mountains are older than we.”
“We are as children before the Mountains that surround us.”
As always, suggestions welcome.
4) “enduring presence and subtle beauty” is nice phrasing.
5) “[O]ur unity as people is fundamental, far more meaningful than the differences that we sometimes allow to divide us.”
Agreed! But then why does Williams go to so much trouble to highlight, even to inflame, those differences. Every time that Dean Bolton sends out an all-campus e-mail about silly Halloween costumes, she is telling every Williams student that their “differences” are more important that our similarities.
6) “Eid al-Adha and Yom Kippur beginning this evening” Hmmm. I would wager (corrections welcome) that this is the first Mountain e-mail that includes a reference to Eid al-Adha.
a) Given the extremely low percentage of Muslim students at Williams, this seems like a bit of gratuitous PC blather.
b) Which religious/cultural holidays will be mentioned in Mountain Day e-mails 20 years from now?
c) Don’t think that mentioning Eid al-Adha is laughable? Hmmm. What if I told you that Falk got the date wrong? It began on the evening of Saturday October 4th this fall, not Friday evening. You can always tell a thoughtless pander by the wrong details.
7) “the values of diversity and deep caring for each other on which our community is founded.” More PC blather. If Williams were really “founded” on those values, then it would select its students and faculty using those criteria. We don’t so we aren’t. We choose on the basis of academic talent and ambition, with a little (lot?) of athletics/race/income thrown in for students and race thrown in for professors.
8) If you were President, what would your Mountain Day e-mail be?
See below for the details of the day’s events from Scott Lewis.
See the news release on early admissions for details. There is enough good information here that we need to spend four days reviewing it. This is day 4.
Academically, the Class of 2019 Early Decision contingent rivals any in the college’s past. Standardized test score averages are in line with previous Early Decision cohorts: SAT averages of 709 critical reading, 701 math, and 707 writing, and an ACT average of 32.
“Rivals” is a polite way of saying “not as good as.” For the class of 2018, the College reported:
Standardized test score averages are higher than any previous Early Decision cohort: 716 Critical Reading, 713 Math and 724 Writing and 32 ACT.
For the class of 2017, we have:
This is reflected in the impressive standardized test score averages: 711 critical reading, 706 math, and 724 writing.
As always, the best summary statistic is Reading + Math. The trend is 2017 (1417), 2018 (1429) and 2019 (1410). A drop of 19 points in the last year may just be a blip. Or is could be a sign that the College is putting more emphasis on race/income/athletics now, at least in the ED pool. Informed commentary is welcome.
Of course, what we really need a a good time series of this data and comparisons to peer schools. Who will build this for us?
See the news release on early admissions for details. There is enough good information here that we need to spend four days reviewing it. This is day 3.
Twenty-two students are first-generation college students (that is, neither parent has a four-year college degree), almost twice last year’s total, and nearly 20 percent of Early Decision admits come from low-income families. “We are especially gratified by the socioeconomic diversity represented in the Early Decision group, a direct result of the success of two expanded fall fly-in programs for high-ability, low-income students,” Nesbitt said.
1) See our Socio-Ec Admissions category for much more background on this topic. Highlights: Defining low socio-economic status is hard, both because opinions vary as to what disadvantages matter and because of a lack of data from applicants. Different colleges do it different ways. At Williams, the traditional definition is, as above, neither parent with a four year college degree and checking the need-financial-aid box. So, even if your parents are (retired) millionaires and you have gone to Milton for 12 years, you add “socioeconomic diversity” to Williams as long as the no-4-year-degree criteria is met.
2) Does the Williams definition still require checking the need-financial-aid box? Is there such a box on the Common Ap? Annoyingly, a PDF version of the Common Ap is no longer available.
3) How does the College know that 20% of students come from “low-income families?” Unless the Common Ap has changed (corrections welcome), there is no income information. I suspect that the College counts anyone who asks for a fee waiver as “low income,” but this seems highly suspect to me. Students, at least smart ones, know that Williams gives advantages to poorer applicants, so why not ask for a fee waiver? Note that the requirements for asking for (and always receiving?) a fee waiver or incredibly loose. They include:
You are enrolled in a federal, state, or local program that aids students from low-income families (e.g., TRIO programs such as Upward Bound).
Your family receives public assistance.
You can provide a supporting statement from a school official, college access counselor, financial aid officer, or community leader.
So, if you grab an apple from the local food bank one time (and therefore receive “public assistance”), you can check this box.
Advice to applicants: Always ask for a fee waiver.
4) As much as Williams likes to preen about the its “socioeconomic diversity,” that diversity has been decreasing dramatically in recent years, even by the College’s own (suspect) metrics. For the class of 2012, 21% of all students were first generation. In recent classes, according President Falk’s public talks, it has been around 1/7. So, there will be around 58 fewer first generation students in the class of 2019 then there were in the class of 2012. Progress, comrades!
(Yes, I see that 20% of the students in ED were first generation, but that percentage will almost certainly come down for the final pool, at least assuming that the class of 2019 is similar to recent classes.)
See the news release on early admissions for details. There is enough good information here that we need to spend four days reviewing it. This is day 2.
American students of color comprise 30 percent of the Early Decision group, including 27 African Americans, 25 Asian Americans, 20 Latinos, and one Native American. Twenty-two students are first-generation college students (that is, neither parent has a four-year college degree), almost twice last year’s total,and nearly 20 percent of Early Decision admits come from low-income families.
1) How is the College counting racial minorities now-a-days? Here is key section of the Common Application.
The College has many students who consider themselves bi-racial, especially students with one Asian and one white parent. Many of those applicants — well aware that elite colleges discriminate against Asian-Americans (although it us unclear if Williams does so) — will either check only the White box or decline to provide any racial info. Nothing that the College can do about that. But how does the College count students who check two boxes, say White and Asian? Do such students get included in the 25 Asian Americans?
The College Board reports:
The ethnicity question on the Common Application has been updated to meet the Department of Education reporting requirements.
Always fun to watch different parts of the US Government disagree about racial classifications! The choices given above are very different than the choices provided on, say, the US Census. My sense is that the Department of Education did not like the Census approach because that approach makes it harder to keep track — or even minimizes (or maximizes!)? — the percentage of black students. Does anyone understand the politics? In particular, by getting rid of the “More Than One Race” option, it forces (?) black students to check the Black box and/or prevents the Colleges from claiming that the “More Thank One Race” students might be Black when, in fact, they are much more likely to be mixed White/Asian.
Answers to the ethnicity question are not required for submission.
What advice do readers have for applicants to Williams? High school students applying to, say, Harvard, should do everything possible to minimize their Asianess, but I don’t think that being an Asian American hurts when applying to Williams. (Of course, many/most students applying to Williams will also apply to schools that are likely to discriminate against Asians.)
Also, how does Williams count students who decline to answer? See extensive discussion of this topic eight (!) years ago. Back to the Common Ap.
If you choose to answer this question, you may provide whatever answer you feel best applies to you or any groups of which you feel you are a part. You can answer all or none of the questions. If you wish to answer the ethnicity question but feel that the established categories do not fully capture how you identify yourself, you may provide more detail in the Additional Information section of the application.
Bold added. Recall our discussion from several years ago, referencing a New York Times article:
The average combined SAT differential between African-American and Asian-American students at places like Williams is around 150 points. Imagine that you are an ambitious high school senior with mid 600 SATs. Without a “hook,” you are highly unlikely to be admitted to Williams. Check the box marked African-American on the Common Application, and you improve your chances dramatically. How much do you really want to go to Williams?
Given the tests’ speculative nature, it seems unlikely that colleges, governments and other institutions will embrace them. But that has not stopped many test-takers from adopting new DNA-based ethnicities — and a sense of entitlement to the privileges typically reserved for them.
Prospective employees with white skin are using the tests to apply as minority candidates, while some with black skin are citing their European ancestry in claiming inheritance rights.
Note that the Common Application gives you almost complete latitude in what boxes you check. It states, “If you wish to be identified with a particular ethnic group, please check all that apply.” In other words, there is no requirement that you “look” African-American or that other people identify you as African-America or even that you identify yourself as African-American, you just have to “wish to be identified.”
Now, one hopes, that there isn’t too much truth-stretching going on currently. The Admissions Department only wants to give preferences to students who really are African-American, who add to the diversity of Williams because their experiences provide them with a very different outlook than their non-African-American peers. But those experiences can only come from some identification — by society toward you and/or by you to yourself — over the course of, at least, your high school years. How can you bring any meaningful diversity if you never thought of yourself as African-American (or were so thought of by others) until the fall of senior year?
“This is not just somebody’s desire to go find out whether their grandfather is Polish,” said Troy Duster, a sociologist at New York University who has studied the social impact of the tests. “It’s about access to money and power.”
So true. Note that Duster gave a talk at Williams a few months ago. Too bad that no one on campus blogged about it. I’d bet that it was interesting.
Driving the pursuit of genetic bounty are start-up testing companies with names like DNA Tribes and Ethnoancestry. For $99 to $250, they promise to satisfy the human hunger to learn about one’s origins — and sometimes much more. On its Web site, a leader in this cottage industry, DNA Print Genomics, once urged people to use it “whether your goal is to validate your eligibility for race-based college admissions or government entitlements.”
If you care about the traditional notion of diversity at Williams — that it is critical for the College to have enough African-American students, students who identify themselves this way and are so treated by society — than this phrasing must make your blood run cold. What happens when hundreds (thousands?) of students with 600 level SATs take these tests and “discover” that they are African-American?
Some social critics fear that the tests could undermine programs meant to compensate those legitimately disadvantaged because of their race. Others say they highlight an underlying problem with labeling people by race in an increasingly multiracial society.
“If someone appears to be white and then finds out they are not, they haven’t experienced the kinds of things that affirmative action is supposed to remedy,” said Lester Monts, senior vice provost for student affairs at the University of Michigan, which won the right to use race as a factor in admissions in a 2003 Supreme Court decision.
Still, Michigan, like most other universities, relies on how students choose to describe themselves on admissions applications when assigning racial preferences.
Up until now, we have all assumed (hoped) that applicants are mostly honest. The College does not check that you are “really” African-American or Hispanic. They take you at your word — although they certainly like to see club membership, essay/recommendation references and other signs consistent with that check-mark.
Yet what happens when every student at elite high schools gets tested? This will happen. Indeed, how can any social studies teacher resist such a test when it would serve as a great starting point for all sorts of amazing class discussions?
Then, once every junior at Exeter has taken the test, it will be time for some fun discussions in the college councilor’s office.
Uptight Parent: We would really like Johnny to go to Williams.
College Counselor: Well, Johnny is a great kid who will do well at Colby. But, with his grades and test scores, Williams would be quite a reach.
UP: If Johnny were African-American, he would get into Williams.
CC: Well, that might or might not be true, but it hardly seems relevant to this discussion since Johnny is white.
UP: But the project that Johnny did for social studies showed that he was 2% sub-Saharan African.
CC: So . . .
UP: That means that he can check the African-American box on the Common Application.
CC: Well, the traditional usage of that box is for students that have always identified themselves, and been identified by others, as African-American.
UP: But it doesn’t say that on the form, does it?
UP: So, Johnny can check it, right? There is no school policy against it?
UP: In fact, since the test demonstrates that, scientifically, Johnny is African-America, I can count on the school to verify that designation in all its application paperwork.
CC: Yes. [Sigh] And I hear that the fall foliage is lovely in the Berkshires . . .
Think that this is just more stupid EphBlog fantasy?
Ashley Klett’s younger sister marked the “Asian” box on her college applications this year, after the elder Ms. Klett, 20, took a DNA test that said she was 2 percent East Asian and 98 percent European.
Whether it mattered they do not know, but she did get into the college of her choice.
“And they gave her a scholarship,” Ashley said.
Of course, being “Asian” does not help you when applying Williams.
Note also that these tests often make mistakes, so many of the box-checkers will actually be mistaken.
The point here is not that the current admissions policy at Williams is bad or good. It is what it is. The point is that there are significant preferences given to those who check certain boxes and that cheap genetic testing will provide many people with a plausible excuse to check boxes that, a few years ago, they did not have. How much will the admissions process change as a result? Time will tell. It will be very interesting to look at the time series of application by ethnic group over this decade. I predict that the raw number (and total pool percentage) of African-American and Hispanic applicants will increase sharply. Time will tell.
Eight years later, what has time told us?
See the news release on early admissions for details. There is enough good information here that we need to spend four days reviewing it. This is day 1.
Williams College has offered admission to 244 students under its Early Decision plan. The 112 women and 132 men will comprise 44 percent of the incoming Class of 2019, whose ultimate target size is 550.
A better run blog would maintain a time series of this information. How has ED data changes over time? Alas, we have fallen behind on this and many other fronts. My New Year’s Resolution is to spend much more time on EphBlog in 2015. What would readers like to read about?
Do we have any readers from the class of 2019? Let us know in the comments. In fact, tell us about yourselves! One project in 2015 will be to collect as many Twitter accounts, Tumblrs, blogs and other (public) profiles of Williams students. Recall EphBlog’s purpose: To encourage, organize and support the Williams Conversation. If you are an Eph with something to say, we want to share your words and pictures with the broader Williams community.
More to come in January . . .
Beautifully written post explaining the problems with Mexican-themed costumes.
“They didn’t mean to be offensive.”
A picture of six white Williams students donning taco costumes with mustaches and sombreros were shared last night to the rest of the campus. These pictures were on Instagram for everyone to see, and a few students have shared those pictures with the rest of the student body.
“They didn’t mean to be offensive.”
What is offensive about a taco costume? Nothing, a taco costume is not offensive. But, a taco costume with a fake mustache and a sombrero is. But why is it offensive if they are all Mexican things? Taking three different reductive stereotypes about Mexicans and Mexican culture and putting into one costume simplifies, reduces, and exotizes Mexicans. You perpetuate the one caricature of Mexicans already deeply ingrained in the imagination of the U.S. You become complicit in anti-Mexicanness that I, my family, my neighbors back home, other students, staff, and faculty at Williams, and thousands of others across the U.S. experience daily.
“They didn’t mean to be offensive.”
The six women are posing slightly hunched over, raising their fists, with the caption: “First there was the Jackson Five and then there was the Taco Six. #Ole.” The Jackson Five? Olé? Why do these Williams students feel the need to dress up as people of color for Halloween? Why are they only willing to engage with other cultures on a holiday? If they love our cultures so much, why do I not see them at the events we spend months planning to teach and to share different aspects of our identities and heritage? Why are we only the butt of their Halloween joke?
“They didn’t mean to be offensive.”
The caricature of Mexicans shows how abstract we are to them. We may share the same dining halls, be in the same classes, have mutual friends, but in the end, it does not register to them that their actions may have different implications for those of us who do not and cannot fit into the dominant culture at Williams and in the U.S. Some of us are not granted the option to not be offended due the history of exploitation, the ongoing attacks of Mexicans in the U.S., and our every day lived experiences.
“They didn’t mean to be offensive.”
I reiterate, their reduction and caricature of Mexicans and Mexican culture aligns with what is already etched in the imagination of the U.S. In the imagination of the U.S., we are sombrero-wearing, taco-eating, dirty mustached, wetback beaners who are here to take up all the jobs and mow your lawns, wash your dishes, be your child’s nanny, pick your fruit and vegetables; we are your employees, we are illegals, we are dirty, we are lazy, we are criminals, we do not belong here. We are Other.
Read the whole thing. I have saved a copy below the break, along with many interesting comments in the thread which followed.
Needless to say, I disagree with much of the substance of this argument, but there is no denying its eloquence and intelligence.
Every campus controversy needs a name. What shall we call our latest? Given the photo which started the contre-temps, I suggest “The Taco 6.”
Do readers have other suggestions?
By the way, here are the images that Google pulls up for “girls mexican costumes”. I am sure that all PC Williams students would appreciate it Dean Bolton could go through them all and let them know which ones are acceptable at a Williams party and which ones are not. How about these two from Halloween Costumes?
Unless Dean Bolton truly wants to get into the business of Halloween costume selection for 2,000 undergraduates, she would be wise to let this matter drop.
Is she wise?
Another absurd e-mail from Dean Bolton:
From: Sarah Bolton
Date: Monday, December 8, 2014
Subject: Concern From the Weekend, and Support
Dear Williams Students,
I write to inform you about a concern that has arisen over the weekend. As many of you are already aware, on Saturday night several students reported to me a photograph showing six Williams students who appeared to have dressed in costumes imitating a racial stereotype, including [What Do You Think Goes Here?].
As is the case when any concern is brought to the attention of my office, we are looking into this matter in order to understand fully what took place and how it may relate to the college’s code of student conduct.
This is a very difficult time for many students, and we are setting up a variety of opportunities for gathering or supportive conversation this week. In addition to their regular daytime operations, the Davis Center will be staffed for the next three nights from 7-9 pm and the Chaplain’s office will be open in the evenings as well, from 8-10 pm. There is a workshop for students wondering how to be allies from 7-9 pm at Hardy House. There is a Stress-busters tonight at Paresky. And, the deans are available to work with students who are struggling to move forward their academic work in this difficult context. Please don’t hesitate to come by or contact any of us.
Obviously, I have left out the key phrase. Here are some options:
1) gang colors and grillz.
2) false mustaches and sombreros.
3) Irish country hats and shillelaghs.
4) horned helmets and fake braids.
5) Indian headdresses and “war paint.”
Answer is 2! Can you believe it? I would have thought this was a spoof. (And maybe a student is spoofing me! Corrections welcome.)
My thoughts on this are the same as always.
First, we need an Eph Style Guide. That was a good idea ten years ago. It is a good idea now.
Second, does Dean Bolton enjoy these mini-controversies? (Insider comments welcome.) If I were Dean, I would find them boring and annoying. If she does not enjoy them, she could decrease the number of complaints that come to her office by not sending out so many all-campus e-mails. The bigger the deal she makes about these stupidities, the more of them will come to her door.
Third, if I were a trouble-making non-liberal student. I would come to Dean Bolton with a similar complaint (about, say, a student wearing a Che Guevara or hammer-and-sickle t-shirt) and demand that she send out a similar all-campus e-mail about that.
Does anyone have a copy of the photo? Send it in. Future historians will thank you!
Since war came to the West on September 11, 2001, only a handful of Ephs have read these words. Are you among them?
My Home Is in the Valley Amid the Hills
Each morning I watch the sunlight drifting down through the pines, scattering the clouds from the mountain sides, driving the mists from the glens.
Each night I see the purple lights as they creep up the slopes of the Dome and the shadows as they fall on wood and stream.
My home is among young men — young men who dream dreams and see visions; young men who will carry my banner out into the world and make the world better because they have lived with me in my valley amid the hills.
Among my sons who have left me, some have caught the poet’s fire, and their words have touched men’s hearts and have bought cheer to a weary world.
And some, in answer to the call of country, have gone out to battle for the common rights of men against the enemy. Some of them will not return to me, for they have given all they had, and now they rest at the foot of a simple cross or lie deep below the waves. But even as they passed, the music of the chimes was in their ears and before their eyes were visions of the quiet walks beneath the elms
Whether apart in solitude or pressing along the crowded highways, all these who have breathed my spirit and touched my hand have played their parts for the better, for
I am ALMA MATER:
I am WILLIAMS.
This 1926 eulogy, written by Professor of Rhetoric Carroll Lewis Maxey, comes from page 136 of Williams College in the World War, a beautifully arranged remembrance of those Ephs who served in freedom’s cause during the Great War. To Williams students today, World War I is as far away as the War of 1812 was to the generation that Professor Maxey sought to inspire. What will the great-grandchildren of today’s Ephs think of us? What will they remember and what will they forget?
1st Lt Nate Krissoff ’03, USMC died eight years ago today. For the first year after his death, we maintained a link at the upper right to our collection of related posts, as sad and inspiring as anything you will ever read at EphBlog. Yet that link came down. Time leaves behind the bravest of our Williams warriors and Nate’s sacrifice now passes from News to History, joining the roll call of honored heroes back to Colonel Ephraim Williams, who died in battle during the Bloody Morning Scout on September 8, 1755.
More than 250 years have marched by from Ephraim’s death to Nate’s. But the traditions of military brotherhood and sacrifice are the same as they ever were, the same as they will ever be as long as Ephs stand willing to do violence against our enemies so that my daughters and granddaughters and great-granddaughters might sleep safely in their beds at night. Consider this moving ceremony in Iraq for Nate in the week after his death.
Before there was Taps, there was the final symbolic roll-call, unanswered. “Krissoff,” intoned Sergeant Major Kenneth Pickering.
“1st Lt. Nathan Krissoff.”
By culture and custom, the Marine Corps is given to ritual and none so important as the farewell to comrades who have fallen in battle. And so the memorial service here for 1st Lt. Nathan Krissoff, intelligence officer for the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, was both stylized and achingly intimate.
The author, Tony Perry of the Los Angeles Times, captures perfectly the ethos of the Marine Corps. During Officer Candidate School, our Platoon Sergeant, Gunnery Sergeant Anderson, sang a haunting song of blood and sacrifice. The chorus went:
Let me tell you how I feel.
Why Marines must fight and die?
I can only remember snatches now, twenty five years later. It was a short song, repeated slowly, with emotion. For years, I have looked for the words to that plaintive melody, the eternal warrior’s lament of pain and suffering. Gunny Anderson only sang it with our platoon a handful of times, only when he felt that we were worthy of inclusion in the brotherhood of arms.
The last of those times was near the end of our training. At OCS, the fun-filled day begins with PT (physical training) at around 0500. Our entire company (200 men) is standing at attention in the humid Virginia morning. Back in July, there had been plenty of light to start exercising that early, but, by August, the later sunrise left us all waiting in darkness.
Gunny Anderson had the “duty” that morning, so he was the only member of the staff present. The others, well aware of the timing of sunrise, would be along shortly. Gunny Andersen, recognizing that graduation day was near and that he had us all to himself, led the entire company in that song, including the other platoons who had never heard it before.
And he did it in a whisper. We all stood there — having survived almost 10 weeks of brutal training, shouting our lungs out day after day — and whispered the song with him, 200 voices joined with the spirits of the Marines who had gone before us. Nate is with those spirits now. When the next Eph Marine is marching on that same parade deck during OCS, Nate will be watching him as well.
I remember the name of my platoon sergeant from 25 years ago. My father still remembers the name of his platoon sergeant from 55 years before. Let none of us forget the sacrifices of Marines like Nate and Myles Crosby Fox ’40.
Krissoff, 25, a champion swimmer and kayaker in college, was killed Dec. 9 by a roadside bomb that also injured other Marines. Hundreds of grim-faced Marines who knew Krissoff came to the Chapel of Hope, the converted Iraqi Army auditorium, for the service.
“We have a bond here, we have a family here,” said Staff Sgt. Allan Clemons, his voice breaking as he delivered a eulogy. “Nathan was part of that family.”
There were embraces, but not in the sobbing style one might see at a civilian funeral. The Marines put arms around another and slapped each others’ backs — the sound was like repeated rifle reports in the cavernous hall. Navy Cmdr. Mark Smith, a Presbyterian chaplain, said later he has seen Marines do this at other memorials. “They need to touch each other,” he said. “I’ve heard them talk about ‘hugging it out.’ But they want to do it in a manly way.”
By all accounts, Krissoff was a charismatic leader who had impressed his superiors and earned the trust of his subordinates.
War always takes the best of my Marines.
Civilians may not recognize the meaning of the first person possessive in that last sentence, may attribute its usage to my megalomania. Indeed, to avoid that confusion, my initial instinct was to write “our Marines.”
Yet that is not the way that real Marines think about our Corps. Despite defending an independent, freedom-loving country, the Marines are fundamentally socialist in outlook. Everything belongs to every individual. This is not just my rifle or my uniform, but my tank and my obstacle course. And what is mine is yours. See the bootcamp scenes from Full Metal Jacket for an introduction to an outlook as far away from Williams College as Falluja is from Williamstown.
At OCS, the worst sin is not to be slow or stupid or weak, although all these sins are real enough. The worst sin is to be selfish, to be an “individual,” to care more about what happens to you then what happens to your squad, your platoon, your battalion or your Corps. What happens to you, as an individual, is irrelevant.
When the instructors at OCS are angry with you (and they get angry with everyone), they will scream: “What are you? A freakin’ individual? Is that what you are? A freakin’ individual?”
To get the full effect of this instruction, you need to imagine it being shouted from 5 inches away by the loudest voice you have ever heard.
When they shouted it at me, I was sorely tempted to respond:
Yes! Indeed! I am an individual! Four hundred of years of Enlightenment philosophy have demonstrated that this is true. My degree in philosophy from Williams College has taught me that I, as an individual, have value, that my needs and wants are not subservient to those of the larger society, that I have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
For once, I kept my mouth shut.
A Spartan mother had five sons in the army and awaited news of the battle. A Helot arrived; trembling she asked his news. “Your five sons have been killed.” “Vile slave, was that what I asked you?” “We have won the victory.” She ran to the temple to give thanks to the gods. That was a citizen.
For Rousseau, there are two ways for a man to be free. First, he can live alone, cut off from humankind but self-sufficient. He needs no one. Second, a man can be a citizen and so, like the Spartan mother, unconcerned with his own, and his family’s, well-being. All that matters is the polis.
A Marine is many things, but not a freakin’ individual.
The article continues:
He grew up in Truckee, Nev., graduated from Williams College, majoring in international relations, and hoped someday to work for the Central Intelligence Agency.
Lt. Col. William Seely, the battalion commander, talked of the silence left by death of Krissoff and other Marines. “When we depart these lands, when we deploy home, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the long silence of our friends,” he said. “Nathan…your silence will be deafening.”
If there was mourning, there was also anger that, as the chaplain said, Krissoff “was taken from us by evil men.”
This is true and false. Marines do not sympathize with the insurgents whom they battle but they do empathize with them. “Clifton Chapel” by Sir Henry Newbolt describes this duality in the oath that every warrior takes.
To set the cause above renown,
To love the game beyond the prize,
To honour, while you strike him down,
The foe that comes with fearless eyes;
To count the life of battle good,
And dear the land that gave you birth,
And dearer yet the brotherhood
That binds the brave of all the earth.
Most of those responsible for Krissoff’s death are now themselves dead, killed in battle by Krissoff’s fellow Marines.
Among the readings and quotations was the classic from World War I, “In Flanders Fields.” The poem challenges the living to continue the fight and not break faith with the dead: “Take up our quarrel with the foe/To you from failing hands we throw/The torch: be yours to hold it high….”
I did not know, when I first wrote of Nate’s death, that his fellow Marines would also be using “In Flanders Fields” as a way of memorializing his sacrifice. Who will take up the torch thrown by Nate? Are there any Williams students heading to OCS this coming summer? Are there no warriors left among the Ephs?
Williams College in the World War opens with a call for remembrance.
The text, by Solomon Bulkley Griffin, class of 1872, begins:
The wave of full-hearted devotion that rose in the World War has receded from its crest, as must have been in times more normal. But never will there be forgetfulness of it. Memory of the glory that wave bore aloft is the priceless possession of all the colleges.
The service of Williams men enshrined in this volume is of abiding import. By it the past was made glorious, as the future will be shadowed while it is illumined. Natural it was to go forward when God quickened the souls of men to serve the need of the world, and so they held themselves fortunate.
Indeed. Yet are Griffin’s assurances that we have nothing to fear from “forgetfulness” correct? I worry, and not just because of the contempt with which faculty members like Mark Taylor treat the US military. Consider the College’s official description of the most prestigious prize at Williams, the only award presented on graduation day.
WILLIAM BRADFORD TURNER CITIZENSHIP PRIZE. From a fund established in memory of William Bradford Turner, 1914, who was killed in action in France in September, 1918, a cash prize is awarded to the member of the graduating class who, in the judgment of the faculty and of the graduating class, has best fulfilled her or his obligations to the College, to fellow students, and to self. The committee of award, appointed by the President of the College, is composed jointly of faculty members and members of the graduating class.
Was Williams Bradford Turner ’14 just a soldier who was “killed in action in France?” Does this description do justice to Turner or is it an example of the “forgetfulness” that Griffin thought unlikely? Consider:
He led a small group of men to the attack, under terrific artillery and machinegun fire, after they had become separated from the rest of the company in the darkness. Single-handed he rushed an enemy machinegun which had suddenly opened fire on his group and killed the crew with his pistol. He then pressed forward to another machinegun post 25 yards away and had killed 1 gunner himself by the time the remainder of his detachment arrived and put the gun out of action. With the utmost bravery he continued to lead his men over 3 lines of hostile trenches, cleaning up each one as they advanced, regardless of the fact that he had been wounded 3 times, and killed several of the enemy in hand-to-hand encounters. After his pistol ammunition was exhausted, this gallant officer seized the rifle of a dead soldier, bayoneted several members of a machinegun crew, and shot the other. Upon reaching the fourth-line trench, which was his objective, 1st Lt. Turner captured it with the 9 men remaining in his group and resisted a hostile counterattack until he was finally surrounded and killed.
The most important prize awarded by Williams College is named in honor of a winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and virtually no one at Williams knows it. If Williams today does not remember that 1st Lt William Bradford Turner ’14 won the Congressional Medal of Honor, then who will remember 1st Lt Nathanial Krissoff ’03 one hundred years from now?
Both died for us, for ALMA MATER, for Williams and the West.
Krissoff’s brothers bade him farewell in Anbar just one year ago.
When the roll-call and Taps were finished, the Marines came single-file to the altar to kneel in front of an inverted rifle with a helmet placed on the buttstock. Each was alone in his grief.
As are we all.
All great stories are tragedies, and the sad tale of Mayo Shattuck ’76, Molly Shattuck (pictured below), and their three children is no different.
Molly Shattuck, the former Ravens cheerleader who was married to onetime Constellation Energy CEO Mayo A. Shattuck III, was arrested Wednesday and charged with third-degree rape and unlawful sexual contact with a 15-year-old boy, Delaware State Police said.
Read the full story for all the sad, sordid details. I don’t expect to write many follow up posts. Life is too short. But I can resist highlighting some of my forecasts from 8 years ago.
In any event, he ended up with someone a decade younger and, probably, much less intelligent. (This might be unfair to wife #2 [Molly] but her educational background does not scream out “Intellectual!”)
Lots of people took issue with this claim. Any doubters now?
Mayo seems to have no regrets.
“Suddenly”, says her 50-year-old husband, “I’m married to an NFL Cheerleader! How good is that?”
Not as good, I think, as being married to the woman you met at Williams, the women you promised to love and to cherish until death do you part.
Does Mayo wish he had stayed with wife #1? I don’t know. With each passing year, I appreciate more and more my marriage to an Eph woman. Most Williams men (with Williams wive) I know feel the same.
Age, alas, catches up with all of us eventually. Fortunately, there are other, younger, cheerleaders, at least some of whom would like to meet a man like Mayo, would like to spend some time in his world. How good is that, indeed? If I were Molly, I would take care that no marketing assistants, much less cheerleaders, “run into” Mayo anytime soon.
If you believe the comment section in People Magazine, Mayo has already moved on.
Shattuck did not make it that far in his first marriage and, I’d wager, is unlikely to make it that far in his second. (Does anyone know the divorce statistics on second marriages? On second marriages in which there is a 10+ year age difference? On such marriages for rich men who are under 50?)
Mayo and Molly divorced last month. Always trust contact from EphBlog.
I first wrote about Mayo Shattuck ’76 and his wife Molly 8 years ago. Below is a very slightly edited version of that post. See the original comment thread for lots of fun discussion. There has been news about Molly recently, which I will cover on Monday.
Back in 2008, we were getting a lot of Google hits for “Mayo Shattuck wife”. Our (innocuous) page was #3. The reason was this New York Times article on the search for the next NFL commissioner. Shattuck ’76 was one of the five finalists (although the fix seems was in for the internal candidate).
If the owners of National Football League teams agree to hire Mayo A. Shattuck III as the league’s commissioner this week, he would have to resign his current job — and his wife, Molly, might have to quit hers, too.
Mr. Shattuck, 51, is the C.E.O. of the Constellation Energy Group, a Baltimore-based utility that is being acquired by the FPL Group. Mrs. Shattuck, 39, is a cheerleader for her husband’s favorite N.F.L. team, the Baltimore Ravens.
He would forfeit as much as $23 million of cash and stock in postmerger compensation, but could earn as much as $8 million a year as commissioner. She presumably earns a lot less for shaking her pompoms.
D’oh! Hot Blonde Cheerleader for Baltimore Ravens is Actually 38-Year-Old Married Mother of Three – Molly Shattuck is not your average NFL cheerleader. Yes, she’s a perky blonde in great shape, but she also happens to be about 15 years older than most of the other woman on the squad, married and the mother of three. Molly Shattuck also happens to be the trophy–I mean second–wife of Mayo Shattuck, 50, the chief executive of Constellation Energy, a Baltimore-based Fortune 500 company. (Mayo reportedly still has strong corporate ties to the Ravens, helped sell the team to its present owners in the late 1990s while serving as the president of the investment bank Alex Brown.) By all accounts Molly earned a spot on the squad fair and square, based on her good looks and athletic ability (she comes from a long line of cheerleaders) not using her last name on the application form to get any kind of special treatment from the judges when she tried out last March. Now, in addition to running after her kids (all under the age of six), does Martha Stewart-style home crafts by the truckload, hosts elaborate fundraisers . . . and dances around is a crop top and short shorts for thousands of drooling Ravens fans each weekend.
“Trophy wife” is interesting terminology. Shattuck’s first wife, an Eph, is about 13 years older than his second. Very rich men, like Shattuck, seem to have a habit of marrying second wives that are much younger than their first. Wonder why? You can bet that our web searchers want to find pictures of wife #2 and not wife #1. Here is what they are looking for.
Creepiest picture ever on EphBlog or just an artifact from a culture with practices different from our own? You be the judge!
I wanted to write a much longer post on this topic for a long time but lack the eloquence and empathy for the task. See Professor Sam Crane on marriage as duty.
Duty is not a popular idea in contemporary America: it tends to be overwhelmed by notions of fun and self-interest and frolic in our youth-oriented, celebrity-driven popular culture. But, beyond the bright lights and front pages, duty is what defines the lives of most Americans. We discover ourselves in our committed actions toward others, most often family members but also neighbors and community groups and ideals larger than ourselves.
Sam has been married for more than 30 years. (Congratulations!) Shattuck did not make it that far in his first marriage and, I’d wager, is unlikely to make it that far in his second. (Does anyone know the divorce statistics on second marriages? On second marriages in which there is a 10+ year age difference? On such marriages for rich men who are under 50?)
Of course, this might not be Shattuck’s fault. Goodness knows that I have female acquaintances who have ended marriages for reasons that seemed (to me) shallow. Perhaps wife #1 insisted on a divorce despite his pleas to try to work things out. Perhaps he wanted to seek marriage counseling and she refused. In any event, he ended up with someone a decade younger and, probably, much less intelligent. (This might be unfair to wife #2 but her educational background does not scream out “Intellectual!”)
Apologies for the cruelty. There is a tendency for Ephs to value the things that got us into Williams, that mattered to our parents and professors: intellectual accomplishment and ambition. Who is to say that brains are more important than beauty, in a person or in a wife? No doubt my feminist friends regularly decry the habit of rich men to discard their wives for younger, better-looking women. Should we lament this example? Could you begrudge Mayo and Molly some happiness after reading this?
The coming football season will be the first in seven years that Shattuck isn’t expecting a baby or nursing one. Motherhood has been a struggle for her since her first pregnancy, when she went into pre-term labor at a Ravens game. Although she has borne three healthy children, she has miscarried five times. After months of bed rest and the birth of her youngest child, 2-year-old Lillian, she decided not to have more.
Shattuck needed something to take her mind off this unfamiliar sense of emptiness. She considered law school, or mountain climbing.
Instead, she found happiness in a 9-inch purple skirt.
We all find happiness in different places. Could any reader of EphBlog deny Molly hers? Perhaps. Consider Linda Hirshman’s observation that the choices some women make affect the options of others. And look what happens in the skybox.
In the Constellation Energy skybox last week, Mayo Shattuck managed to look both forlorn and delighted, switching from camcorder to digital camera to brand-new binoculars as he searched for a figure four stories down and half a football field away. He could just make out her face above a pair of churning pompoms.
“Just watch,” he said. “That smile will never come off.”
He was grinning pretty hard himself, flanked by executive buddies, some casting hopeful glances at their own wives.
Hmmm. And what glances did those wives cast in return? The choices that Molly Shattuck makes affect more than just her own life and those of her family. Her choices affect all of us. The wives of those executives are unlikely to be cheerleader material, just as their husbands would not stand a chance at linebacker. But Molly’s choice changes the framework in which those executives think about the meaning of “wife” or, perhaps more distressingly, “second wife.”
You can be sure that some of the cheerleaders on Molly’s squad would welcome the chance to live her life, to marry a man who might provide for them in the manner in which Mayo provides for her. Those cheerleaders, many of whom did not go to college and almost all of whom went to colleges unlike those attended by Mayo’s “executive buddies,” deserve a chance at the happiness they see in Molly. Perhaps she could introduce them to some of the men in the skybox.
All of which raises the question: Who introduced Molly and Mayo?
Molly Shattuck became her husband’s second wife in 1997, a few years after meeting him at Alex. Brown, where she worked in marketing.
Hmmm. This sentence calls for some deconstruction. Shattuck had been president of Alex Brown since 1991, when his son Mayo ’03 and daughter Kathleen ’05 were 10 and 8. Does a “few years” mean back to 1991, when Shattuck first moved to Baltimore? Consider this tidbit.
But Shattuck also learned that life in the limelight meant his private life would be fodder for the media and water cooler talk. A 1995 Baltimore Sun article reported his divorce from his first wife Jennifer after nearly 20 years of marriage and suggested that his busy schedule hampered his family life. Shattuck remarried in 1997 to Molly George Shattuck, who used to be director of the Pikesville Sylvan Learning Center.
“Busy schedule” huh? Well, something/someone was doing some hampering. Why do I think that the Sun article reported more than this? Note that this Business Journal puff-piece omits the fact that Molly used to work at Alex Brown. Call me suspicious, but I think that this omission tells us something about when Molly and Mayo met. Hint: It was before Mayo’s divorce in 1995. My speculation ends there, but perhaps a reader with access to Nexis could provide the 1995 Sun article.
Perhaps this explains how Molly and Mayo met.
Best Move: When she was still working as a marketing assistant, walking out of an office backwards while talking to a colleague – and almost literally sweeping stranger Mayo of his feet. “I met him by running into him,” she says. “I almost knocked the guy over.”
Marketing assistant meets company president. A classic love story.
Mayo seems to have no regrets.
“Suddenly”, says her 50-year-old husband, “I’m married to an NFL Cheerleader! How good is that?”
Not as good, I think, as being married to the woman you met at Williams, the women you promised to love and to cherish until death do you part. But there is a problem in the land of how-good-is-that.
She’s received national attention for being one of the oldest cheerleaders in the NFL, and now 38-year-old Ravens cheerleader Molly Shattuck is hanging up her pom-poms and saying goodbye to the job she made her professional career.
Looks like Mayo and his executive buddies will no longer be able to oogle Molly from the comfort of the skybox. Age, alas, catches up with all of us eventually. Fortunately, there are other, younger, cheerleaders, at least some of whom would like to meet a man like Mayo, would like to spend some time in his world. How good is that, indeed? If I were Molly, I would take care that no marketing assistants, much less cheerleaders, “run into” Mayo anytime soon.
In any event, I am not up to the task of a good post. Perhaps some of our readers are. What duties do Eph husbands and wives owe to each other? What duties do we all owe to spouse #1? What do you tell friends who are thinking of divorce?
Those were my thoughts 8 years ago. Come back Monday for an update.
The most prominent Eph on the this-happened side of the Rolling Stone story about a horrific rape at UVA is Jennifer Doleac ’03. See our discussion on Tuesday. The most prominent Eph on the this-may-not-have-happened side is former Williams professor KC Johnson. Johnson covers some of the same ground as other skeptics, but, even more compellingly, he brings his encyclopedic knowledge about the Duke Lacrosse Hoax to bear:
In the end, Rolling Stone’s message is “trust us.” Erdely vouches for Jackie’s credibility, and that’s good enough for the magazine. But that editorial style requires readers to take a hard look at Erdely’s credibility. And in that task, more troubling questions emerge.
But then there’s the person Erdely describes “attorney Wendy Murphy, who has filed Title IX complaints and lawsuits against schools including UVA.”
While Erdely elects not to inform her readers, Murphy has a past as a commenter on high-profile campus rape cases. In the lacrosse case, she repeatedly misstated (and on some occasions simply made up) “facts” designed to make the lacrosse players look guilty. To take a few examples, Murphy (on national TV) wildly claimed, “I bet one or more of the players was, you know, molested or something as a child.” She later asserted, “I never, ever met a false rape claim, by the way.” Murphy falsely stated, “All the photographs showing how really fine [lacrosse accuser Crystal Mangum] was when she left scene were doctored, where the date stamp was actually fraudulent.” The attorney falsely told a national TV audience that “all” of the lacrosse players took the Fifth Amendment. (None of them had, and three had voluntarily given statements to police without their attorneys present.) Murphy fantasized about non-existent “broomstick DNA” and the “torn genitalia” of the accuser.
What does it say about Erdely’s credibility—upon which, in the end, the story relies—that she is willing to uncritically quote from a charlatan like Murphy, all while not informing readers of her source’s grievous misstatements of facts on a previous high-profile allegation of campus sexual assault?
Nothing good. Either Erdley is foolish for not understanding/researching Murphy’s background or (even worse?) she is purposely misleading her readers but not providing us with this crucial information.
By the way, if there are other Ephs writing about this issue, please leave links in our comments.
Is this the most ridiculous all-student e-mail by a Williams administrator in a decade or an EphBlog spoof?
From: Sarah Bolton <email@example.com>
Date: Mon Nov 24 2014 at 9:34:50 PM
Tonight the grand jury announced that there would be no indictment in the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. No one will be held legally responsible for his death, and yet he was killed, and terribly so. Tonight communities across the country stand together in solidarity, seeking justice and an end to racism, so that all people can be safe from harm in their communities.
I write tonight in support of all who are thinking of Ferguson and of Michael Brown’s family, whether in gatherings or alone. And, I write in hope that all in the Williams community will continue to work to end racism in all of its forms — with all that we have.
1) EphBlog has a long history of parodying administration communication. If we just showed you this e-mail without commentary, would you think it real or fake?
2) It is real! Let’s examine the e-mail that Dean Bolton did not send:
From: Sarah Bolton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Dec 1 2014 at 9:34:50 PM
Tonight police charged a third person in connection with the brutal murder of Zemir Begic. Tonight communities across the country stand together in solidarity, seeking justice and an end to racism, so that all people can be safe from harm in their communities.
I write tonight in support of all who are thinking of St. Louis and of Zemir Begic’s family, whether in gatherings or alone. And, I write in hope that all in the Williams community will continue to work to end racism in all of its forms — with all that we have.
Background reading from CNN here. Why does Dean Bolton write all students about the death of a black man but not the death of a white man? Because the central rule of public morality at Williams is that black deaths matter but white deaths don’t.
3) Just a service to our readers, here is Michael Brown robbing a convenience store minutes before his encounter with officer Wilson.
Of course, robbery (especially of short, brown, immigrant shop keepers?) does not merit getting shot by police, but Bolton seems blind to the complexities of this case, to the fact that lots of people — probably including a majority of Americans — think that “justice” was, in fact, served by the grand jury’s decision to not indict Wilson.
4) A better Williams Dean would not send out this e-mail in the first place. Instead of worrying about events in far-away Missouri, she would worry about events on campus, events that she is responsible for and might even have some control over.
5) A better college would, instead of e-mailing students vacuous calls “end to racism,” organize a campus conversation, or even debate, about the Brown shooting, would challenge all sides in the dispute to re-examine their assumptions and conclusions. Is Williams that sort of college? I don’t know.
Jennifer Doleac ’03, an Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Economics Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy University of Virginia, is a long time EphBlog favorite, mainly because of her excellent senior thesis about predicting student achievement at Williams. She is currently involved in issues of campus safety at UVA, now much in the news because of this Rolling Stone story about an horrific gang rape at UVA two years ago. Jennifer tweeted:
Would readers be interested in more coverage of this topic?
In any event, this should be another occasion for Adam Falk, and everyone else in the Williams administration, to thank John Sawyer ’39 for getting rid of fraternities from Williams 50 years ago.
A 2012 column from the Boston Globe:
His name is Mayo Shattuck III, and when the authoritative book about the absurd income disparities that have come to dominate America in the early 2000s is written, his smiling face will almost certainly be on the cover.
Raised in Cohasset and Hingham, educated at Williams, he is now the chief executive of the Baltimore-based Constellation Energy Group, which happens to own four power generating plants around Boston, three in Everett and another in Weymouth.
But enough of the pleasantries, because here’s what Mayo Shattuck III was paid in 2010: $15.7 million. That’s $301,000 a week, or almost exactly twice poor Tom May’s package. So the Constellation Energy Group must be an unbelievably well-run company, right? Well, no. Actually, the company lost $1 billion one recent year, barely avoided bankruptcy, aborted one merger already, and saw its stock plunge from over $100 a share to the low $20s, all with Mayo Shattuck III at the helm.
The Maryland governor has complained about Mayo Shattuck III’s pay, as has the editorial page of the Baltimore Sun, members of the Maryland Legislature, and some of the largest Constellation shareholders, but to no avail. Mayo Shattuck III also chairs the company’s board, the same board that sets his pay, whose members make a minimum of $195,000 a year in cash and stock for nominal work.
Even the company that Constellation is currently merging with, Chicago-based Exelon Corp., has sent hints that it doesn’t want any part of him, but has agreed to make him executive chairman just to get the deal done.
So what is Mayo Shattuck III good at? Golf. And at that, he’s great, sporting a handicap so low that a leading golf magazine ranked him as one of the 10 best golfing CEOs in the nation. For that honor, his board probably gave him another raise.
The Alumni Office will want to invite Mayo out for a round of golf at Taconic as it ramps up planning for the next capital campaign.
Want to do something about executive pay at large (public) companies? Easy! Do this:
The SEC should pass a regulation requiring that all publicly traded companies allow their shareholders to vote on the following (binding) resolution each year.
“The total compensation of both the CEO and the CFO shall not exceed $1 million in the coming fiscal year.”
Those who dislike government meddling in business have little to complain of here since the government isn’t telling any business how to set salaries. The government is just requiring that business owners be allowed to vote on a specific option.
What would happen of such a regulation were in place? Senior executives would complain long and loudly. Many large shareholders — especially pension funds — would gladly vote for lower compensation. Many mutual funds would feel pressured to do so. My guess is that the resolution would pass at many companies.
There would then be significant (downward) pressure on executive salaries across the board. If you’re the CEO/CFO of a big company, there are very few employees who you think should be paid more than you are. Of course, this won’t allow you to pay people (much) less than they could get elsewhere, but the number of people for whose services the “market” is willing to pay more than $1 million per year is small. The very best baseball players, rock stars, entrepreneurs and Wall Street traders would still make millions, but only because any attempt to lower their pay would cause them to go elsewhere with their talents.
Some would say that this plan won’t work since the companies whose shareholders agree to pay more than $1 million per year (whether they be public or private companies) will snap up all the “best” executive talent. Maybe. But, our ability to measure executive talent is so limited that it would be hard for any company to easily identify a CEO candidate who is significantly better than many other candidates for the job.
There is a sense in which such a scheme, if implemented, would amount to implicit collusion among the employers of senior executives. Perhaps. But collusion in the service of class warfare is no vice.