The following sketch of the growth and constitution of the governing boards of Harvard University, by W. T. Hewett, will be of interest: "Harvard University presents certain points of resemblance to the system of the English colleges. By the charter of 1650, which is still in force, the president and fellows of Harvard College became a body corporate, enjoying the right of administering the funds and making all rules for the government of the college, as well as of electing their successors in office. The former board of overseers was retained, embracing the governor, the deputy governor, and the leading clergymen and magistrates of the adjoining towns. This double organization was designed to perpetuate in the government of the college the close relation of church and State to all educational institutions. The overseers had been the sole governing board, but, as constituted, it was not found equal to the functions which devolved upon it. Many of the members resided at a distance, and few could have an immediate knowledge of the needs of the college and an insight into its workings. Differences in religious belief also divided the colony, and introduced bitterness and strife in the election of members of the board and in the choice of the president and tutors, which continued even after later modifications of the charter. The State retained an unfavorable jurisdiction over the affairs of the college, approving the election and voting the salaries of president and professors as late as 1786. Every wave of public opinion that affected the legislators influenced the destinies of the college. In the contests of rival factions, salaries and needed appropriations were withheld, often occasioning great inconvenience and suffering. Obnoxious opinions of the president and faculty on political subjects often invoked investigation and rebuke.
The influence of English usage was shown in the original character of the corporation at Harvard. As the professors were the ruling body in the Continental schools, and the masters in the English colleges, the corporation of Harvard was composed of two classes: Resident or teaching fellows, and nonresident or simply governing fellows. The former were also called fellows of the house; to them, aided by the advice of some of the ablest and most learned scholars of the country, the entire administration of the college was entrusted. They chose the president, elected their successors and associates in instruction, and were responsible for the government. In this body of seven members the title of the property was vested. The overseers were a more numerous body, and possessed the right of ratification and amendment. The occasion of this double organization will be found in the early form of colonial society. Two classes were prominent, the clergymen, the single learned class, and the civil rulers, who were alike highly honored. To these two classes, the only ones available the oversight of our educational institutions was entrusted.
The establishment of the president and teaching fellows as a separate body for government and discipline did not take place until 1725, nearly a hundred years after the founding of the college, and as thus constituted was termed the 'immediate government.' Ordinary discipline had previously been in the hands of the tutors. The system of having representatives of some one of the various faculties in the corporation has continued until recent times, and has always been regarded as beneficial, as presenting the views of the teaching staff upon all questions of university policy.
The right of every tutor - for at this time there were no professors - to a seat in the corporation was early discussed, and at one time allowed by the legislature. An eventful controversy arose in 1824, upon a demand of all the instructors to representation in the governing board, who claimed that the term 'fellow' in its historic sense conferred the right to participate in the determination and decision of all university matters. Edward Everett and Professors Ticknor and Norton advocated with great earnestness and ability the right of all members of the faculty to seats in the governing board, while the legal members of the corporation and overseers maintained that representation could not be claimed as a right, either from the terms of the charter or from the history and use of the word 'fellow.' This position was taken by Judges Story and Jackson, and Chief-Justice Parker and others. The decision was in accordance with the latter view. Owing to questions of reorganization at the time, which occasioned diverse opinions, the application of the faculty for the election of one of their number to the corporation was refused. Precedent dating from the act of incorporation was in favor of such representation, which was held desirable and legal, but not a right to be claimed; the privilege of such election was admitted, and a purpose to continue the former usage was expressed."