Bok's Selection of Top Administrators Likely to Raise Governance Questions

The selection of several top administrators during the coming semester is expected to draw attention to questions of University governance and investment policy.

Issues that may soon receive heightened scrutiny include the role of the Board of Overseers in University decision-making, the homogeneity of the exclusively white, male Harvard Corporation--the University's seven-man governing body--and the ethical implications of Harvard's financial endeavors.

President Bok will spend the next few months focusing on filling several major posts, including two seats on the Corporation, as well as deanships at the Law School and the Kennedy School of Government.

Bok said in an interview last week that a replacement for Andrew Heiskell '35-'36, who retired from the Corporation last year, will be chosen in February. Members of the Corporation and the Board of Overseers, the University's alumni governing body, will also soon begin to search for a successor to Treasurer and Corporation member Roderick M. MacDougall '51, who died in November.

Some students and alumni have called upon the self-selecting Corporation to appoint a woman or minority to its ranks.


"I think it's important to broaden the representation on the Corporation as rapidly as possible," says Peter H. Wood '53-'54, a member of the Board of Overseers. "That message has come through very strongly from all quarters. It would be a mistake for the Corporation not to take that very seriously."

This spring's Board of Overseers election will present another opportunity for diversification among the University's top administrators, as well as a chance for alumni to elect members who favor the University's divestment from South Africa-related corporations, Wood says.

Last month, the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) announced a slate of 10 candidates for the Board's five openings. Their nominees include Commerce Secretary Elizabeth H. Dole, Democratic National Committee Chair Paul G. Kirk '60 and actor John A. Lithgow '67.

Critics have suggested that HAA nominated famous alumni this year in an effort to hurt the chances of independent, pro-divestment candidates. Harvard-Radcliffe Alumni Against Apartheid, a group which favors total divestment, will announce its own Overseers slate next week.

Some Board members are beginning to push for the Overseers to take on a more active role in University governance. Although the Board of Overseers officially must approve the Corporation's policies for them to be enacted, it has usually been reluctant to take an independent stand.

"The Overseers should be independent enough to oversee, and not merely rubber-stamp, the actions of the Corporation," says Wood, who was elected on a pro-divestment slate in 1987. Wood also says the Board should allow its members to publicly discuss Harvard-related issues.

While students and alumni are now paying increased attention to Harvard's process of governance, the University's investment decisions are also provoking debate.

Critics fault the Harvard Management Corporation (HMC) for contributing $20 to $40 million to a limited partnership of 70 investors whose funds were used in the $24.3 billion buyout of food and tobacco giant RJR Nabisco last November.

"HMC's ethical principles are no different than those of Wall Street traders," says Rob Weissman '88-'89, head of Harvard Watch, a group organized by consumer advocate Ralph Nader to monitor the University's investment activities. "Given the experience with the RJR takeover, this might be the ideal time for the University to review its policies."

Once the current series of major appointments is behind him, President Bok may be free to consider bringing his 18-year presidency to a close. Bok himself has hinted recently that he is thinking of moving on.

Some observers suggest Bok was awaiting the outcome of the presidential election in the hope that he could secure a position in a Democratic administration. With a Republican in the White House, Bok may be free now to contemplate other alternatives.

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