Letter to the Editor: Response to Board’s conflicts of interest

To the Record,

I would like to respond briefly to the letter from Peter Koenig and David Tobis regarding the Board of Trustees (“On conflicts of interest,” April 12, 2017).

Much of Koenig and Tobis’ piece is devoted to re-visiting issues that the board addressed in detail back in 2015, as described in our published statement from that time, which explains among many other things the decision not to divest as part of our response to climate change. I encourage anyone who is interested to read that statement and understand the many elements of our thinking, which developed after much consideration over a year of study and discussion.

As to Koenig and Tobis’ critique of trustees O. Andreas Halvorsen ’86 and Mark Tercek ’79, it betrays a serious misunderstanding of the capital markets to suggest that Mr. Halvorsen’s investment portfolio would be affected one way or another by a decision to divest the endowment from the list of stocks targeted in the divestment proposal. Odder still is the notion that Mr. Tercek has a disqualifying conflict because the very prestigious partnership he left, in order to dedicate his career to protecting the environment, had made a profit investing in energy.

The letter concludes by suggesting that Williams should “clean up… our own backyard.” In my personal view, Williams’ backyard is in very good order. The trustees each volunteer hundreds of hours every year to keeping it so work for which I and, I believe, most members of the Williams community are deeply grateful.

Michael Eisenson ’77, chair of the Board of Trustees