HARVARD'S TWO GOVERNING BOARDS may not actually be as powerful as they sound from their names, but they do at least have an important symbolic function as the highest-ranking groups of alumni in the University. If nothing else, the members of the Corporation and the Board of Overseers are the alumni most honored by Harvard. So it's disappointing that they're overwhelmingly male and corporate in composition, and that it appears they will both fill their vacancies this spring with more businessmen.
The Board of Directors of the Associated Harvard Alumni has nominated for the five Overseers' places open this spring ten people well entrenched in the American business establishment. All ten are men; six are present or former chief executives of corporations, two are corporate lawyers and two are in government.
The Corporation's new members--there will be one this spring because of the retirement of Albert H. Nickerson '33--are appointed by a four--member committee, three of whose members are now on the Corporation. Judging from statements by committee members this month, it seems fairly certain that they will choose a businessman to fill Nickerson's place, continuing the Corporation's 340-year tradition of being all male.
It's depressing that in a year when administrators are talking about equality, the role of women, and merger, the two committees that theoretically govern Harvard seem likely to remain overwhelmingly white and male. We continue to support merger, but the prospect of a university with the same administrative structure for both men and women undergraduates is far less appealing if that structure appears unlikely to add more women.
There's also no need for Harvard to continue to be governed by corporation presidents, investment bankers and the like, who have never shown much visionary talent for anything besides making money. People who have spent their lives outside of the corridors of power, humanitarians and social reformers, would be far more likely to be able to guide a university well than people who have devoted their lives to getting rich.
Unfortunately, the committee that will choose the new Corporation member doesn't have to listen to anyone besides its own members. But the selection process for new Overseers is far less closed. Alumni can, by petition, add new names to the ballot besides the official AHA-sanctioned ones--a process that has worked and won Overseers' elections in the past. Alumni should begin to propose new nominees. The Governing Boards need more women and a much broader spectrum of social, economic and political backgrounds than they have now.