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RESPONDING TO THE overwhelming hostility students felt for the Corporation last month, the committee of Fifteen has announced that it will consider possible changes in "character of membership, method of election. . ." of the Governing Boards. Most of those who went on strike to re-structure Harvard were mainly concerned with this simple problem, but it is easily overlooked when compared to all the other questions in the wide range of the committee's concerns. A review of the situation suggests, though, that the emphasis given this aspect of Harvard's governance during the emotional period after the bust was well placed.
* Nathan Pusey will leave his post in 1973, when he reaches the retirement age of 66 which Harvard imposed on administrative officers. Since the President and Fellows have "perpetual succession" under the University's 1650 charter, the Corporation will choose his replacement, subject only to consent of the Overseers. Within the next year or so the Corporation will form a search committee to begin looking for a new president, and the men on this committee will talk to "an infinite variety of sources," according to Sargent Kennedy, secretary of the Corporation.
But the final decision will be made by the seven Corporation members. The Corporation is primarily interested in the financial and social position of the University and it seems likely that the man they choose will be both a capable fund raiser and prominent in the nation's academic establishment. As a reflection of their own isolation from the University, the members of the Corporation will probably be less concerned that the new president share this community's sentiments or even that he be willing to listen to them. This selection policy seems to have been followed in the past, but Harvard's internal rumblings will be even more severe in the next twenty years if, after Pusey's retirement, it is faced with the outcome of a similar process conducted by the men now serving on the Corporation.
* Corporation membership probably represents the only area where SDS rhetoric has been too cautious. The Fellows fill their own vacancies by the same procedure, having a survey committee solicit a wide range of recommendations, but the process has resulted in an incredibly homogeneous body. Four lawyers, three of them with extensive financial interests which have been repeatedly publicized by radicals, serve on the Corporation; the fifth Fellow, A. L. Nickerson, is a Republican from New York City who heads the Mobil oil company. With the exception of the youngest Fellow, Hugh Calkins from Cleveland, the Fellows maintain nearly identical life-styles in a select and self-contained world. For example, they share membership in the same exclusive clubs in Boston and New York; although Samuel Eliot Morison, who wrote authoritative histories of Harvard, reported that "no religious test has ever existed for membership in the Corporation," all three Fellows whose religious ties are listed in the current Who's Who are, along with Pusey, Episcopalian.
The Fellows' non-Harvard interests often converge on the same company. Since early in this century the Corporation has retained the Boston firm of Ropes & Gray as the University's legal counsel. During that time at least three Fellows--Thomas Nelson Perkins, Charles A. Coolidge, and Francis H. Burr--have been partners in Ropes & Gray. From 1954 to 1965, when Coolidge retired, he and Burr served as Fellows at the same time, Burr also sits on the Board of Directors of State Street Investment Corporation, whose relationship with Harvard's treasurer, George Bennett, is discussed below; Bennett, Burr, and Coolidge all serve as directors of the New England Electric System.
Calkins, the symbolic outsider from the Mid-West, was named a Fellow because the Corporation wanted to change its image. But he is a thoroughly Eastern product--born in Newton, prepped at Exeter, degrees from the College and Law School--and he admits that he was groomed for service to Harvard by a friend on the Corporation and was the logical choice when a vacancy occurred because the friend died.
* The college charter of 1650 provides that, besides the President and Fellows, the University's treasurer shall be a member of the Corporation. George Bennett, the current treasurer, is also president of the State Street Investment Corporation. His predecessor as treasurer, Paul C. Cabot, was president of that investment firm and now serves as chairman of its board. Bennett served as deputy treasurer of Harvard under Cabot because he was then vice-president of State Street; he was elevated to Harvard's Corporation when Cabot retired from it. The present deputy treasure is Mayo A. Shattuck, who is also vice-president of State Street.
A pattern seems to have developed since 1948, when Cabot becme treasurer. Harvard chooses as its treasurer the head of State Street Investment and as its deputy treasurer the next-ranking executive of that firm. So one of the seven voting members of the Corporation is simply a delegate from this Boston investment company.
Beyond the Corporation's apparent surrender of the power to name Harvard's treasurer, this relationship could be unwise for the University's own selfish interest which the Corporation claims to protect. In a recent book James Ridgeway, an editor of The New Republic, charges that State Street agreed to this arrangement on condition that its investment funds receive priority over Harvard's when trading shares of the same stock.
Bennett has been criticized by SDS for investing Harvard's money in Middle South Utilities, a holding company for allegedly racist utility companies in the Deep South. Even if the companies do not discriminate, it might be considered unusual for Harvard's treasurer to invest the University's funds in a corporation which he has served as a director since its founding in 1949 and in which his own investment firm and he personally have financial interest. Middle South might be a profitable investment, but what seems like a possible conflict of interest could in some cases result in imprudent uses of Harvard's money.
It would probably be better for Harvard to follow Yale's lead in this area. The treasurer of Yale is an employee named by the university. He makes investment decisions with the help of an investment firm established and half-owned by Yale. And the university's funds receive priority in the market over the firm's own funds.
* Changing the Corporation's method of election (for example, by having a student-faculty search committee) or its character of membership (by having faculty or recent graduates serve limited terms) face no legal restrictions. They only state laws restricting the Governing Boards apply to the Overseers--only alumni can vote, but faculty and administrative officers cannot vote for or serve on the Board. A recent article on this page indicated that--however foolhardy it would be politically to ask politicians now to consider matters affecting a university--it might be safe in legal terms to petition the legislature to remove the limits on the Overseers. It is possible that the Supreme Court's Dartmouth College decision in 1819 means that no low affecting Harvard's Governing Board could take effect unless it were approved by the Governing Boards themselves, since such a law would constitute an amendment to the College's original charter.
Further research has suggested that this interpretation is correct, although no one knows for sure because no legal scholars have ever had any reason to consider the problem. A source in the office of the Counsel to the Massachusetts Senate has said that it seems probable the Governing Board's approval is required. And Morison, in his Development of Harvard University, 1869-1929, agrees that this principle "may now be considered a settled point in American constitutional law."
* Besides their legal responsibility for the University, the Governing Boards also write the Statutes which regulate Harvard's internal affairs. Because these rules are so general, each faculty's responsibility within the university has long been a matter of custom rather than regulation. After the controversy over ROTC, the Committee might wish to re-write the Statutes of clarify the role of the faculties and their relations with the Governing Boards. The Statutes should probably also be revised to contain any new provisions for selecting members of the Corporation and Overseers; these reforms can now be made only by the Governing Boards.
That the Governing Boards are so remote from this community and that the Corporation can be stereotyped so easily and so much more clearly than even radicals have said, indicates that significant changes in Harvard's Governing Boards are essential. The major difficulty in making these reforms will be the resistance offered by the men who run the University. And they have already resorted to police violence once to keep their grip on power from slipping.
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