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Form 990 History

Purpose of this post, updated once a year, is to maintain our history of the Form 990s issued by Williams. (Thanks to John Wilson ’64 for leading the charge on these efforts over the years.)

Form 990 is an IRS requirement filed by all US non-profits. It is a confusing document that has changed significantly over the years. See here for background reading. Williams only provides versions going back to 2009. Future historians will thank us for archiving older versions: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. In fact, because Williams occasionally hides things that it once made public, let’s go ahead and save the more recent filings: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Should I spend a week going through the latest version?

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5 Comments To "Form 990 History"

#1 Comment By Whitney Wilson ’90 On September 27, 2018 @ 9:13 am

There are often interesting tidbits in there, so sure.

#2 Comment By Doug On September 27, 2018 @ 10:11 am

It is important to go over this document on several levels. To start, it’s guaranteed the Record wouldn’t consider touching a report on this document, as to do so would challenge/question authority.

After scanning these documents, I find it completely unconscionable to donate to the college. As an ostensible “non-profit,” I’m blown away by the salaries of administrators who play little role in the education the college provides compared to the salaries of actual professors.

As a case study, I point to Steve Klass, who makes more money per year than the average anesthesiologist for being the “VP of Campus Life”. All I recall him doing during my time at the college was finding a new restaurant to cater to the Log. You’d have to be insane to argue that we couldn’t have found someone qualified and thrilled to do his job at $175,000/year, which is less than half of his current salary. That difference could fully subsidize two scholarships, which some might argue is more in line with the college’s mission than retaining someone to regulate student clubs and hire restaurants.

Scanning these documents over the years, the increase in dollars shelled out for administrators is jarring. In contrast, the most recent 990 shows that the college’s financial aid budget has contracted slightly.

If people were aware of how the college was spending its money, I am sure they would reconsider donating. This could in turn lead the college to return to faculty governance and curb the administrative bloat. Until then, I can think of about a hundred charities more worthy of alumni’s dollars. Remember the figures reported in these documents next time you’re solicited for a donation.

#3 Comment By PTC On September 27, 2018 @ 11:40 am

Doug,

What is your take on the College’s venture further and further into for profit entities such as the new Inn, the Log, interests in almost all the commercial real estate on Spring, interests in the Red Lion Inn- etc. etc.

These costs play on economy, and the pure for profit valuation of administrators who expand the colleges interests into things like owning several hotels and restaurants may explain these salaries- as well as influence and importance of economy v education?

Is there a lack of a model to evaluate “good professors” through economy? Is the model for compensation (perhaps poorly) justified through action that lacks academic visibility? Is it a design that has moved the school from an academic to an economic model? Probably?

There is an expression in Williamstown- “The corporation formerly known as Williams College.”

From my point of view, this shift occurred in the 80s from the school’s adoption of pure classic economic liberalism, and was further solidified by Morty and David. David in particular, drastically increased the pure economic interest model, (look at those hires); which is argued at the expense of education- although he and others would argue that the pure economic model is in furtherance of education.

Is academy is a side bar to economics?

Long post- but what is your take on the schools construction boom in furtherance of more shiny objects and for profit real estate ventures? Is that indicative of anything involving your well articulated post above- or no?

#4 Comment By Doug On September 27, 2018 @ 7:14 pm

PTC–

I’m hesitant to condemn construction and “shiny object” pursuits — I understand, in a macroscopic way, why the college is interested in building new libraries and even straying into the town economy by building a fancy new inn and a hotel. I’m also not sure it’s possible to draw a connection between the college’s construction boom and the growing administration/administrative salaries. I think colleges have always lusted after fancy new buildings, and Williams just happens to be in a financial position where it can afford to complete these projects.

It’s also just not what I’m concerned about — refining the campus is one of the few legitimate roles these administrators are playing. I’m just concerned that the college is getting away with paying these admins exorbitant salaries in what’s essentially a non-competitive market. Who gets selected to be the Dean of Faculty and receive that handsome 300k/year salary? It’s just the professor who’s the most well-connected to the existing college admins, not by any means the person who would be most qualified to fulfill that role. And then there’s no pressure or justification for that high of a salary, which is essentially double or triple what normal professors make, it’s just baby boomers rewarding each other, and no one is calling them out.

#5 Comment By PTC On September 27, 2018 @ 8:52 pm

Right on.