Reviewing Committee Proposes Limiting Presidential Tenure
The University Committee on Governance-Harvard's most expansive and powerful restructuring effort-added a new dimension yesterday to this Fall's search for Harvard's next president.
Approval for the committee's proposals-which would for the first time limit and review procedures on the term of a Harvard president-is automatic.
The Governance Committee recommended:
a maximum term of 10 to 14 years be imposed on the next president before he takes office;
within that term, Harvard should provide an option for a shorter term of five to seven years (with the possibility of renewal) if the new president wants it;
Harvard make a formal "full scale review of the state or progress of the University every four to eight years."
In the course of the study, the committee said, "the quality of the president's leadership would become apparent as the natural by-product."
If the review is critical of top administrators in the University, the Overseers and Corporation should not feel bound to a fixed presidential tenure. "Options for appropriate reassignment"- possibly as a professor or administrator of a smaller Harvard program-should be sought to "supplement the traditional alternatives of resignation, retirement, or dismissal."
The limitations are similar to those Yale President Kingman Brewster asked for last Fall. Brewster asked Yale trustees to create a blue ribbon committee to review his own tenure at Yale and consider alternatives to the "lifetime" appointment procedure that has guided Yale and Harvard in the past. This Fall, the Yale committee gave Brewster a unanimous vote of approval.
The recommendations answer many of the questions the committee posed in its widely distributed memorandum on the choice of a new president last Spring.
Technically, the Board of Overseers must adopt the recommendations before they take effect. Their approval is only a formality.
The Governance Committee, composed of 32 students and faculty members from all parts of the University, two Overseers, the head of the alumni organization, and Francis Burr, senior fellow of the Corporation, is a subcommittee of the Overseers. The recommendations passed "without dissent," according to Dean Dunlop, chairman of the group.
More Active Boards
Explaining the proposals, the committee's statement admonished the Harvard governing boards-the Board of Overseers and the Corporation-to take more responsibility in the future as watchdogs over the presidency.
"The governing boards are required to be continually conscious of their established responsibility for evaluating the performance of the president and determining the effectiveness of university governance in all schools and departments," the statement said.
"They remain empowered to remove a president at any time, just as he is free to resign."
The committee cautioned, however, that it's proposals on limiting the term of the president should be flexible. "No unnecessarily restrictive predetermination of term should be adopted to reduce the attractiveness of the presidency to the most able candidates," the report said.
Yesterday's recommendations on the new president's term are a continuation of the Governance Committee's attempt to define the nature of the president's job in conjunction with the present search, Dunlop said.