September/October 2022Vol. XXXV No. 1

Lessons on Governance from Yale

Robert Berwick, Nazli Choucri, Jonathan A. King

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Len Gutkin, “The Review: The Report Yale Doesn’t Want You to See” (August 22, 2022) is very illuminating about how oversized, overpaid, and opaque the top administration is at Yale.

There’s also a 2018 Chronicle report showing that Yale has the fifth-highest ratio of administrators to students in the country, and the highest in the Ivy League (for comparison, peer institutions like Columbia, Harvard, and Stanford were 24th, 35th, and 55th, respectively). MIT was 6th, with a very high administrator to student ratio and high cost of administration leadership.

Perhaps we should encourage a similar review here.

The thesis in the article also suggests that an “increasingly intolerable burden of bureaucratic oversight” stems from the numerical increase in administration even as the size of the faculty has remained stagnant, which is precisely the case at MIT.

Then there’s the issue of the enormous administrative salaries as well as additional outside compensation at the Institute. According to Schedule K “highly compensated individuals” of the IRS filing for MIT as of tax year 2020 (filed May 21, 2021), President Reif received $1,675,260. This, of course, doesn’t include further compensation he received as board member at Schlumberger, reported to be $357,265. Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz received $926,593.

Which brings us to MITIMCo (the MIT Management Company) which operates completely outside of any oversight by the Faculty. Seth Alexander, President of MITIMCo, received $2,545,561. Steven Marsh, MITIMCo Senior Vice President, received $2,520,619. Other MITIMCo officers were similarly highly compensated. The office buildings built on the East Campus probably return substantial bonuses for MITIMCo, which of course wouldn’t be provided by desperately needed graduate student housing.

Of the many reforms in governance that MIT would benefit from, bringing MITIMCo under faculty review seems critical. The return to governance appropriate for a university, rather than a corporation, should be one of the guiding principles in the search for a new president.