Monday, March 30, 2015

The Silencing of Harvard’s Professors

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 24th, 2015

Today Harvard faces a serious governance problem that requires institutional change. When we first came here, the university was organized on the constitutional principle: “Each tub on its own bottom.” This meant first of all that each of the component schools (arts and sciences, medical school, law school, and so on) had not only a high degree of budgetary independence but also that its faculty and dean had a large measure of autonomy. And at the level of the schools such administrators as there were worked under the direction of the dean and in close cooperation with faculty committees. Correspondingly, the central administration was very small: There were four vice presidents to oversee administration, alumni affairs and development, finance, and government relations, and a general counsel.
In 1991, when Derek Bok left office after 20 years, there was no provost. The president managed his academic duties alone, with a small ministerial staff. He chaired the ad hoc committees that considered permanent appointments, read the supporting materials, heard the witnesses, and submitted his conclusion to the governing boards. The president’s establishment was small, so of necessity much of the business of the university — academic and administrative — was conducted at the level of the individual faculties. There, individual faculty members took on many of these administrative tasks, though not always to their delight.

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