Faculty, After Faust

Faculty governance is vital, although its extent should not be uniform on all issues

Presidential Search and Faculty Governance

As the University undertakes the arduous, nuanced, and rigorous task of selecting its next President, few groups will exert as great an influence over this process as its Faculty. While the search committee consists of all 12 Harvard Corporation members and three members of the Board of Overseers, it will be advised by a committee of faculty members, as well as one of staff and one of students. In light of this upcoming transition in University leadership, and in light of the Faculty’s overwhelming interest in recent policies concerning undergraduate social life, the subject of faculty governance—how much influence faculty members should wield on University issues outside of their own research, teaching, or department—has become salient.

Ultimately, faculty governance is invaluable. For instance, if Harvard College truly aims to “educate the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society,” it should take efforts to ensure that those with the most responsibility to execute this education—its faculty—should play an active role in solving the issues of the day. In the same vein, the search committee should seek out candidates who, if selected, would hold faculty governance in high regard.

This holds true even for issues on which faculty may not have the most pertinent expertise. Regardless of the subject in question, faculty can, and should, offer a range of intelligent, constructive viewpoints with an eye toward the University’s best interests, and, on contentious issues, they can offer a check on administrative power.

However, this last point merits a word of caution. Faculty may be more qualified to offer advice on some University-wide issues, such as those pertaining to research funding, or to the role of their department or school within the University, than on other issues, such as those that may affect them less directly, or on which they may have less relevant expertise. Given this delineation, it seems appropriate that the extent of faculty governance on a subject should, to some degree, be tailored to the subject itself.


A necessary complement to this idea concerns administrative power. Especially on issues to which faculty may be less attuned, Harvard should ensure that it hires and trains administrators with relevant expertise. By way of example, while the Faculty can and should play an important role in the undergraduate experience, the College needs administrators who are qualified to address the aspects of undergraduate life on which faculty may be unable to exert direct guidance.

In hiring faculty, and in offering tenure, Harvard, under its next President, should look first and foremost for leaders in teaching, advising, and research, but it should also consider the role individuals would play in University governance. Because the Faculty are an essential part of the University—aptly described as its “bedrock”—they should exert influence and guidance on administrative issues. It would be illogical, however, for the extent of this power not to depend on the issue in question, and it is therefore vital to hire administrators who can offer leadership on issues where faculty are only able to lead to a lesser degree.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.


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