Harvard Expands Board Size

December 7, 2010

Harvard University on Monday announced that the size of the Harvard Corporation, the university's governing board, will increase to 13 from 7. Further, the board will start using committees -- on finance and on facilities -- instead of simply meeting as a committee of the whole. Those committees in turn may include some people who are not members of the corporation. The changes are somewhat radical for Harvard, which has had the same structure for the corporation since 1650. But board committees and larger boards are standard in private higher education. By way of comparison, Yale University's governing board has 19 members, and the Stanford University board has 35 members. Data from the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges show that the average board size for private doctoral institutions is 38. As Harvard experienced significant budget cuts the past two years, following sharp drops in its endowment value, critics have questioned whether the small board in place was sufficiently engaged with various university constituencies.

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