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BP-to-Goldman Boards Becoming Hot Seats for Conflicted College Presidents

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marmar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-10 06:33 PM
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BP-to-Goldman Boards Becoming Hot Seats for Conflicted College Presidents
BP-to-Goldman Boards Become Hot Seats for College Presidents
By Janet Lorin

June 30 (Bloomberg) -- As much as higher education and corporate America would like to be engaged, college presidents are struggling to reconcile the demands and values of academia with shareholder skepticism about their boardroom commitments.

Marathon Oil Corp. investors cast 67.5 million votes against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson in April after a shareholder questioned whether she had time to serve. At Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Brown University President Ruth Simmons declined to stand for reelection in May, citing time demands, amid student criticism of her tie to the company, which was involved in the Wall Street meltdown.

University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. is a defendant in at least two lawsuits stemming from BP Plcs oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, even though he quit BPs board in April, five days before the spill began.

For university presidents, sitting on a corporate board used to be a resume enhancer and a networking opportunity, Nell Minow, chairman of the Corporate Library, a Portland, Maine, company that evaluates board performance, said in an interview. Now it is a genuine and very demanding task with some daunting liability -- reputational and financial.

Companies recruit college presidents to add independent voices on boards dominated by corporate officers. Shareholders question the college leaders availability for board tasks. Campus critics say chancellors, provosts and presidents should be focusing on budget cuts and shrunken endowments, and are tainted by the behavior of companies they serve. ..........(more)

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