Disclaimer: Ambassador Roberta Jacobson’s son is Gil Jacobson, the editor-in-chief of The Tufts Daily. He was not involved in the editing of this op-ed in any way.
Two weeks ago in his remarks to students, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy alumnus and current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford reminded us of the importance of our moral standing.
“When the United States goes to war, we go with our values, and I’m proud of that,” General Dunford said. “A source of our strength is our moral authority, and we have to maintain that.”
As the Anthony Scaramucci issue continues to unfold, it is important not to lose sight of the larger picture and the fundamental choice for Tufts and The Fletcher School this moment represents. Taking a stand when the institution’s values are challenged by its own actions can be difficult, but the long-term consequences of indifference may outweigh any short-term benefits. Money comes and goes, but moral values live forever.
Fletcher's administrators are focused on one of the key responsibilities they hold — ensuring the current and future financial strength of the college. This is an important and valid responsibility. The challenge is to balance the financial responsibility with the more intangible responsibility of strengthening and protecting the reputation of the college as espoused in its mission and values.
There is a long-term opportunity cost to keeping Scaramucci on the board. This cost is the potential loss of loyalty and pride among current and former students in becoming a member of the so-called "Fletcher mafia."
There are currently 290 individuals who signed the petition whose long-term support could be in question — all at the expense of keeping one man on the Board of Advisors for a five-year term. We don’t know how many other current students and alumni have reservations as a result of this appointment. Certainly it would be helpful to the school’s institutional advancement and development office to conduct a survey to determine if there are negative consequences that could affect support by these two groups.
Do the short-term, potential financial gains of having this individual on the board outweigh the long-term costs? One could try to argue this point in the affirmative, by analyzing the money he has provided to Fletcher, either directly or indirectly through his outreach to contacts.
Another step the administration and Board of Advisors can do is research the financial results accruing to the school from Scaramucci’s seat on the board. The results could help them weigh both the financial vs. reputational benefits and negatives, both in the short and long term. This could inform any decisions they may decide to take regarding his continued service to the school as a member of the Board of Advisors.
As a student, it is an honor to see the list of current and former outstanding members of the Board of Advisors: those Fletcher alumni who have worked their entire lives, in private and public sectors, to achieve success, thanks in part to what they gained at Fletcher.
Surely there are potential candidates for the board who would enhance and strengthen both the financial and reputational assets of Fletcher. For example:
- Ambassador Roberta Jacobson, an honorable stateswoman and diplomat who has worldwide connections and has been a successful public servant under both Republican and Democratic presidents.
- Reeta Roy, president and CEO of Master Card Foundation. Before joining the Foundation, Roy worked at the healthcare company Abbott and its corporate foundation. According to Stavridis, Roy “represents the best in us all. She is a global citizen and she puts her life on the line to create positive outcomes for those in need.”
- The Honorable Dr. Paula Stern, founder and chairwoman of The Stern Group, Inc. She also is the former chairwoman of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). Stern is a member of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Advisory Committee on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, the Executive Committee of the Atlantic Council, the Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Inter-American Dialogue and the Advisory Council of the Wilson Center’s Women in Public Service Project (WPSP), according to her biography on The Stern Group's website.
The list of reputable Tufts/Fletcher alumni who can serve the board and represent our school with honor is long. It is easier to say what could or should be done than actually doing it. But if we are going to protect the long-term reputation and values of Fletcher, we need to act now in order to be able to say we did the right thing when it counted.
It seems that we have come to a point where the power of money is taking precedence over the power of values. The consensus amongst the petitioners — students, faculty and alumni — about Scaramucci's seat on the board seems to be overwhelmingly negative.
Thus it is up to the administration and board to listen to what is being said, to conduct any research relevant to the issue and to use the information and their collective wisdom and experience to weigh the long-term costs against the short-term benefits of Scaramucci’s continued service on the board.
As General Dunford said, our values are critical and must always take precedence in our decisions and actions. I urge the Fletcher administration and board to place these values above money as they deliberate what, if any, course of action to take.