The theory behind paying those high executive salaries and compensation packages, like the $905,000 for University of Washington President Mark Emmert, usually carries the explanation that top talent needs top pay. Needs it, the theory goes, both as incentive to do a good job (though if they were so good, would such incentive be needed?) and as a loyalty encourager and enforcer: You wouldn't put any other obligation before the one that pays you so well, right?
Which raises a question of what degree of loyalty two of Emmert's newest employers - they are paying him for services rendered - might expect. They're both board positions, but Emmert will be compensated substantially for them: By Weyerhauser $70,000 a year and $70,000 in stock, and by Expeditors International $200,000 a year in stock.
Where exactly does that put him in any dealings those corporations might have with UW?
The story has broken all over the Seattle media; we were taken by this tag on a Post-Intelligencer blog post: "It isn't untypical for highly paid university leaders to sit on boards. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported earlier this year that the only two public university presidents earning more money than Emmert in the 2006-2007 school year both sat on corporate boards."
A closing thought: What if we offered to pay university presidents, say, $50,000 a year and reasonable expenses? Might weed out a lot of the money obsession; and our guess is that the level of executive talent wouldn't change much.