Trustees | Trusteeship

Governance Reconceived

HARVARD MAGAZINE   |  May 1, 2011 by Anne D. Neal

The January-February 2011 issue details the reformation of the Corporation (“The Corporation’s 360-Year Tune Up,” page 43). While the changes are newsworthy, aren’t the Fellows missing something?

Governance is about more than assigning committees and adding trustees. Boards are fiduciaries of the financial and academic health of their institutions. They ultimately ensure the academic excellence that will empower students—and make alumni proud. But many alumni are concerned that undergraduate education at Harvard can be improved and that the Corporation isn’t paying adequate attention.

The new plan, which expands the Corporation’s alumni affairs and development roles, underscores a common but misguided view that the trustees’ job is to raise money, spend money, and get out of the way.

The new Corporation intends to address academics as a committee of the whole and to defer to the visiting committees of the Overseers. In other words, it intends to do in the future for education what it’s done in the past. According to the article, the new Corporation will offer the opportunity for trustees in different stages of their careers. Perhaps, too, it might offer the opportunity for a different kind of trustee: one who would raise urgent matters concerning the education and lives of Harvard College students—a coherent core, renewed emphasis on teaching and learning, promotion of free speech, and formal recognition of ROTC.

Anne D. Neal, ’77, J.D. ’80


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