The Corporation: Who's on It, What It Does

For all the influence and power the President and Fellows of Harvard College--also known as the Corporation-hold over the University, they remain a low-profile group. And they like it that way.

Founded in 1650, just 14 years after Harvard itself. The Corporation is the oldest self perpetuating body in the Western Hemisphere. As Harvard's principal governing body, tantamount to a board of trustees, the Corporation has the final say over the academic direction, personnel and fiscal plans of the University's 10 faculties, and numerous research centers, libraries and museums. It controls a $600 million yearly budget and a $2.3 billion endowment. And legally, the seven men--there has never been a woman on the Corporation--own all of Harvard's buildings, property and assets.

Major acts of the Corporation are subject to ratification by Harvard's other governing body, the 30-member Board of Overseers. Members of the Overseers are elected by alumni to six-year terms Technically, according to the complex statute governing the relationship between the Overseers and Corporation, the Overseers maintain control over the Corporation and must give it permission to select its new members.

But in reality, the Overseers gather only a few times a years and virtually rubber-stamp what the Corporation decides. The Overseers maintain their influence through a host of special "visiting committees." boards of experts and alumni which help shape the long term direction of individual Harvard departments.

Fifteen years ago, when Harvard was in President Bok's words, "under administered," the Corporation made a lot more decisions about the day-to-day workings of the University Since then. Harvard has increased the number of its vice presidents to five, and the Corporation has delegated to them more of the nitty-gritty of administration, finances, legal matters and public affairs.


Today, the Corporation tends more to set overall policy and give deans and other officials the latitude to carry it out. In its typically day-long meetings every other Monday, the group reviews budgets: trends in the finances and hiring of the various faculties: University departments with budgetary or other problems: and other long-range issues. Little of what the Corporation does, according to Bok, is newsworthy in the sense of a final decision or announcement Only once in Bok's 14 year tenure has a vote been taken on any issue; Corporation members say consensus is reached before decisions are made.

The issue on which the Corporation has spent perhaps the most time in the last 12 years is that of investor responsibility. Through the four-member Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (CCSR), chaired by retiring 16-year Corporation veteran Hugh Calkins '45, the board has grappled with the issue of how to handle investments in companies which do some business in South Africa.

The CCSR has developed and implemented Harvard's policy of "intensive dialogue," under which the University attempts to persuade companies with South African operations to implement a set of progressive measures to offer Blacks advancement opportunities and educational benefits The University recently reported the results of its initial intensive dialogue efforts, including the first divestiture of stock from a company which had failed to meet Harvard's ethical standards for firms with business in the apartheid state.

Calkins' strong involvement in the investment issue exemplifies an informal arrangement within the Corporation whereby each member has a specific sphere of influence. While Calkins is the investment policy man. Andrew Heiskell says he helps decide who gets honorary degrees at Commencement. Charles P. Slichter '45, a noted professor of physics at the University of Illinois, is respected for his judgement on academic questions. Robert G. Stone Jr. '45, is elected to the Corporation shortly before the University launched the $350 million Harvard Campaign," which Stone co-chaired. He has served as the Corporation's fundraising whiz. The newest member of the group. Treasurer Roderick M. MacDougall '51, has become involved in an administration committees that addresses the management of Harvard's $640 million in debt incurred through recent bond issues. It is not known whether Mockler has developed a special area of interest.

Currently, Corporation members form a homogeneous group. The Treasurer and five Fellows are all white, male, in their 50s and 60s, and extremely successful in their respective fields. Five of the six graduated from the College. They number among them one lawyer, three businessmen, a banker and a scholar, which indicates the basic range of the Corporation's responsibilities.

One issue that dogs the Corporation is that of representation. The Corporation has never included a woman or minority representative, and some feel that the governing body lacks the sensitivity to certain issues that such members might provide. And in light of the planned retirements of Calkins and Andrew Heiskell, pressure to break the all-male, all-white legacy of Corporation membership will probably continue to be felt.

In interviews in the past, members have acknowledged the issue and said they support opening membership to a woman or minority. At the same time though. Calkins has cautioned against over tokenism, saying there shouldn't-be a specifically female or minority slot reserved. Heiskell said in a Crimson interview last year that the Corporation has made a concerted effort in recent years, but says. "Unfortunately, one of the qualifications of being on the Corporation is having the time and energy to do it. If you go to a successful Black lawyer, the chances of his-being able to give that kind of time may be slim."