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Yale Holds an Honest Election (2/2)

A two-part series: Part 1 and Part 2.

So what do the 16 Fellows of Yale’s Corporation look like? And how is Yale’s governing body different from the composition of Dartmouth’s 22-member Board?

The most striking aspect of Yale’s 16-member governing Board is its balance. No group with a particular educational or experiential background dominates the Board:

● Five of the 16 Fellows have their most significant professional experience in the academy. Three are or were professors, one was a museum director, and one is the Chancellor of the University of Texas system. Four of these five have doctoral degrees, and three of them taught undergraduates for many years at different educational institutions.

● The Board contains a Judge from the U.S. 2nd Circuit Board of Appeals, the Chairman of the Board of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, a social entrepreneur, and a journalist.

● Six of the 16 members of the Yale Board hold MBA degrees: three from Stanford, one from Harvard, one from the Indian Institute of Management, and one from Yale (whose School of Organization and Management then awarded an MPPM degree).

Yale Trustees.jpg

The members of Dartmouth’s 22-member Board of Trustees have a far more limited range of experience: the Board is dominated by MBA-holding businessmen:

● None of its members has taught undergraduates in a full-time teaching position, and only one Trustee has a Ph.D. degree (Trustee T.J. Rodgers earned his doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford, before becoming an entrepreneur). Of the three academics on the Board, one is a law professor at Notre Dame, one spent her entire career at a small, stand-alone law school in New York before moving to Harvard last fall, and one is a leader in the School of Public Health at Drexel University.

● Outside the business world and the academy, one Dartmouth Trustee is a journalist, one volunteers at a high level with non-profits, and one is a public intellectual.

● Almost two thirds of the members of Dartmouth’s Board hold MBA degrees (Fourteen in all: seven from the Harvard Business School, two from Stanford, two from Tuck and three from Columbia), and of these Trustees, all but one work in the private sector as money managers/investors, corporate managers or entrepreneurs.

DartmouthTrustees.jpg

Strikingly, given the predominance of money managers on Dartmouth’s Board, it is in the area of financial management that the Board has had its poorest results: the last decade saw a ballooning of the College’s staff, a soaring level of employee benefits (the highest in the Ivy League), large gyrations in the value of the endowment, and a quadrupling of the College’s debt load. And despite the business orientation of the College’s Board, in the face of the recent downturn, Yale moved to trim its own costs far more quickly than did Dartmouth’s administration.

Perhaps this space needs to expound on the benefits of diversity in decision-making? Has anyone ever given any thought to that concept at Dartmouth College? We might do so on another day; for the time being, let me suggest that a dinner party with Yale’s fellows would promise far more thoughtful and free-ranging conversation than a soirée with Dartmouth’s almost monolithic Board of Trustees.

Addendum: It is ironic that the Boards of Directors at the enterprises run by Dartmouth’s Trustees do not resemble Dartmouth’s Board at all in their composition and activities. Could you imagine the Boards at GE, Ebay or Freddie Mac filled with people who have no direct experience at all in the business world? Why is it that in their commercial endeavors, our Trustees seek advisors/overseers of the greatest possible professional experience, yet they seem content to fill Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees with people who have no professional experience in the world of undergraduate education?

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