Opening the Old Regime

THE STASI is gone. The KGB has closed its doors. Most of the autocrats of Eastern Europe are dead. Democracy has swept the world.

And stopped on the doorstep of University Hall.

You'd think that with a new president, a new provost, a new Faculty dean, a new University secretary, a new undergraduate education dean, a new Graduate School of Arts and Sciences dean, a new Kennedy School dean, a new Education School dean, a new Design School dean, a New first-year dean and even new Eliot House masters, Harvard's traditional commitment to closed-door policies, Star Chamber-like decisions and secret procedures for everything from finding a new provost to finding a new dining hall czar would have waned. Not a chance.

We have repeatedly encouraged the University to move toward more openness in its decision making structures. Repeatedly the University has ignored us. Now, with all the new faces in the Yard, there may yet be reason to hope.

Openness means more students and junior faculty involved in decision. It means bringing free discussion from the classroom to University Hall. It can mean, among other things, more ethical investment, better College Administrative Board decisions and fairer admissions policies.


OF COURSE, the University's top governing boards, the Corporation and the Board of Overseers, limit the extent to which any new set of administrators can pry open University procedures.

The Corporation (or the President and Fellows of Harvard College, for short) holds the lion's share of power. Every faculty is beholden to the Corporation. All monies are invested according to the mandates of the Corporation. In short, if you want to get something done at Harvard, the best way to do it is to snag one of the seven seats on the Corporation.

If that's too difficult, the Board of Overseers is the next best thing. But that often means schmoozing the Harvard Alumni Association sufficiently (read: donating a lot of cash or getting elected to high public office) to get onto its slate. Otherwise, you can try collecting the 279 petition signatures needed for a ballot spot--a spot plainly designated as not HAA-approved.

And in 1989, after three petition candidates had been elected to the Board of Overseers in three years, HAA changed the rules for overseers elections. Since then, no petition candidates have been elected.

Liberalizing these election procedures should be a top priority for the governing boards. After literally hundreds of years without representation, students should demand at least one seat on the board of Overseers.

Furthermore, the Corporation should hold open meetings and allow student participation--at least in an advisory role--in some decisions.

With the impending retirements of Robert G. Stone Jr. '45 and Charles P. Slichter '45, the Corporation will have to appoint itself two new members in the next few months. Now is also the time to diversify the stodgy old body, which counts only one woman among its ranks-and has never included a member of a minority group. This time, how about an author? Or a social activist? The Corporation would benefit from a broader range of opinions.

We also encourage another corporation, the Harvard Management Corporation, to open up its investment practices to wider scrutiny. The Crimson found last month that the Aeneas Group, the company charged with managing HMC's private placement portfolio, still owns large amounts of stock in firms of questionable ethics and solvency.

For example, Harvard owns 22 percent of Harken Energy Corporation, which has been charged with links to the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).

Furthermore, in recent years Aeneas has invested millions in high-risk stocks that have simply not paid off. And all the while, the money managers have received bonuses that would make many Wall Streeters salivate.