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In Op-Ed, Law Profs Call for University Governance Changes

By Andrew M. Duehren, Crimson Staff Writer

Two Harvard Law School professors, Charles Fried and Robert H. Mnookin, sharply criticized the centralization of Harvard’s university governance structure and called for the creation of a faculty senate in an op-ed in the Chronicle of Higher Education published on Tuesday.

The Harvard Law School Library.
The Harvard Law School Library. By Muhammad H Tahir

The op-ed, titled “The Silencing of Harvard’s Professors,” chronicles the growth of Harvard’s central administration from a once small group of a president and vice presidents to what they described as a now expansive “bureaucracy” of provosts and “a cadre of high-level of administrators.” While Fried and Mnookin acknowledged that the movement, dubbed “One Harvard,” “to some extent represents progress,” they argued that “the results have not always been good.”

“Today Harvard faces a serious governance problem that requires institutional change,” they wrote.

University President Drew G. Faust has described her vision for uniting Harvard as “One University,” through initiatives ranging from interdisciplinary programming to Harvard’s first truly University-wide capital campaign, which is ongoing and seeks to raise $6.5 billion across schools.

And last summer, in an unprecedented move, central administrators unveiled plans for Harvard’s first-ever University-wide policy and set of procedures to govern its handling of sexual harassment. Administrators lauded the change for bringing consistency to Harvard’s approach to the controversial issue across schools.

Law School professors did not react kindly to the change. A group of 28 professors blasted the newly centralized policy in an open letter in The Boston Globe last October, and Law School Dean Martha L. Minow charged a faculty committee with writing a new set of Title IX procedures for the Law School, departing from Harvard’s centralized framework.

Tuesday’s op-ed comes as the Law School moves to implement those new procedures, which will effectively bypass Harvard’s central Title IX investigation office.

Although they referenced the concept of “One Harvard” in their op-ed, the professors did not mention Faust by name in the piece.

In the piece, Fried and Mnookin argue that what they describe as Harvard’s ineffective governance structure has led to numerous problems, including the creation of Harvard’s central sexual harassment procedures, which they criticized, noting that no Law faculty sat on the committee that formed them. Law School faculty members met with Harvard’s general counsel to express their discontent with the procedures, threatening to publicly denounce them before the University allowed the Law School to create its own, according the op-ed.

Fried and Mnookin also cited recent controversy over changes to Harvard’s health benefits plan for non-union employees, which prompted push back from faculty and is currently under review.

To address these governance concerns, Fried and Mnookin called for the creation of a “representative” faculty senate to include ladder faculty from all University schools. Such a body would “provide the administration with an opportunity to have universitywide efforts discussed and assessed by a broadly representative group, not appointed by the central administration or particular deans,” they wrote.

In an emailed statement, University spokesperson Jeff Neal wrote that “Harvard deeply respects the important governance role that faculty necessarily play.”

Minow declined to comment.

This is not the first time that Harvard faculty members have criticized the University’s administrative structure or discussed the creation of a faculty senate. In 2013, following controversy over revelations that administrators at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences had secretly searched the email accounts of College resident deans in the wake of 2012’s Government 1310 cheating scandal, faculty raised governance concerns.

Fried, a former U.S. solicitor general, said he and Mnookin sent Faust, Minow, and others a “courtesy copy” of the op-ed before they submitted it to the Chronicle for publication. Fried and Mnookin both said they took issue with the headline published with the piece.

—Staff writer Andrew M. Duehren can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @aduehren.

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