1st time in centuries: Harvard shakes up board

1st time in centuries: Harvard shakes up board

Harvard University’s mysterious ruling body will face term limits for the first time and double in size following a lengthy study launched in the wake of a devastating 27 percent endowment drop and billions in investment losses last year.

In a letter to the Harvard community, President Drew Faust said the Harvard Corp. will be expanded from seven to 13 members and be limited to a maximum of two six-year terms. Faust said the corporation will “take steps to keep the university community better informed” about its work. It will also form new committees on capital planning and finance.

Robert Reischauer, the corporation’s senior fellow, praised the changes.

“The reforms will increase the collective capacity of the corporation to focus on the major strategic challenges and opportunities facing Harvard,” Reischauer wrote in an e-mail to the Herald.

Computer science professor Harry Lewis, a critic of the corporation, said he was “very impressed” with the changes.

“They really seemed to have nailed every single one of the major problems with the structure of the board,” Lewis said. “It’s going to be more likely that people around Harvard – alumni, faculty – will actually have met or know somebody who’s met someone on the corporation.”

“It’s been an extremely distant, secretive and mysterious body,” Lewis said. “So that will change.”

The university’s corporation and 30-member alumni board of overseers adopted the changes on Saturday following a governance review launched more than a year ago. The reforms constitute the first substantial changes to the body in more than 300 years.

Added Lewis, “A lifetime appointment in 1650 was a lot less than it is today.”

 Jessica Van Sack, Boston Business Journal

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