Divestment Slate Achieves Place on Overseer Ballot

Petitioner candidates qualify, will campaign to change Board of Overseers and Harvard investment policy.

Loeb House
Loeb House, where the University’s governing boards, the Corporation and Board of Overseers, convene
Photograph by Harvard Magazine/JC

The Harvard Forward (HF)-backed slate of petition candidates for Overseer has been certified for the ballot, following a tally by the Office of the Governing Boards (OGB). To qualify, the five petitioners each had to submit 2,936 valid nominating signatures; on February 1, the deadline, the organization announced that it had delivered more than 4,500 names per candidate to the OGB, combining online submissions and those on paper forms. The OGB, which conducts the annual election, had until February 15 to certify that a sufficient number of valid nominations, by alumni, had been gathered.

The University announcement, released this afternoon, notes that the candidates for Overseer include the eight nominees, previously announced, who “emerged from this fall’s deliberations of the HAA [Harvard Alumni Association] nominating committee.” In addition, “Candidates for Overseer may also be nominated by petition. This year, five candidates…qualified for the ballot through this process by obtaining a required number of signatures from eligible voters.”

As reported, HF has since last November promoted the candidacy of five young graduates who are campaigning for election to the Board of Overseers during this spring’s balloting (which runs from April 1 through May 19; five vacancies are anticipated). They are campaigning on a platform of changes in governance (reserving six seats among the 30 elected Overseers for recent alumni, for instance); divestment of any endowment investments associated with fossil-fuel production, and associated changes in investment policy informed by similar issues and concerns; and investment in climate-focused academic initiatives. (The divestment and investment platform is detailed here.)

This is the first such slate of petition candidates to be on the ballot since the 2016 “Free Harvard/Fair Harvard” effort.  As such, HF had to overcome much higher hurdles to qualify its candidates for the election—and did so as its campaign’s organizing staff reached out, engaged volunteers, and collected signatures through concerted online and social-media communications, supplemented by in-person meetings and petition-gathering events worldwide.

In the meantime, the HAA nominating committee has fulfilled its annual duty by announcing eight Overseer candidates (plus a separate group of nominees for service as HAA elected directors).

According to the University announcement, candidates will appear on the ballot in this order, as determined by lot:

The HAA nominating committee has proposed the following Overseer candidates for the 2020 election.

Diego A. Rodriguez, M.B.A. ’01  
B.A./B.S. ’93, Stanford University
Executive vice president, chief product and design officer, Intuit Inc., Palo Alto, Calif.

David H. Eun ’89, magna cum laude, J.D. ’93
Chief innovation officer, Samsung Electronics, and president, Samsung NEXT, New York, N.Y.

Katherine Collins, M.T.S. ’11
B.A. ’90, Wellesley College
Head of sustainable investing, portfolio manager of the Putnam Sustainable Future Fund and the Putnam Sustainable Leaders Fund, Putnam Investments, Boston, Mass.

Raphael William Bostic ’87, magna cum laude
Ph.D. ’95, Stanford University
President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Decatur, Ga.

Susan Morris Novick ’85, magna cum laude 
Senior vice president, Merrill; freelance journalist, The New York Times, Old Westbury, N.Y.

Tracy K. Smith ’94, cum laude
M.F.A. ’97, Columbia University
Berlind Professor of the Humanities, Chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton University; 22nd poet laureate of the United States, Princeton, N.J.

Miki Uchida Tsusaka ’84, magna cum laude, M.B.A. ’88
Managing director and senior partner, Boston Consulting Group, Tokyo, Japan

Ryan Wise, Ed.L.D. ’13
B.A. ’98, Creighton University; M.P.A. ’08, University of Nebraska Omaha
Director, Iowa Department of Education; dean-designate, Drake University School of Education, Des Moines, Iowa

Both Diego Rodriguez (since 2018) and Ryan Wise (since 2019) are current members of the Board of Overseers, completing unexpired terms of Overseers who concluded their service early.

The following candidates for Overseer were nominated by petition.

Margaret (Midge) Purce ’17
Professional soccer player, Sky Blue FC and U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, Portland, Ore.

Jayson Toweh, S.M. ’19
B.S. ’17, University of Michigan
Program analyst, Environmental Protection Agency, Atlanta, Ga.

Lisa Bi Huang M.P.A. ’19
B.S./B.A. ’13, Tsinghua University; M.B.A. ’18, University of Pennsylvania
Chief financial officer and vice president of growth, OZÉ, San Francisco, Calif.

John Beatty ’11 cum laude
M.B.A. ’16, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Senior product manager, Amazon.com, Inc., Seattle, Wash.

Thea Sebastian ’08, J.D. ’16
M.P.P.  ’11, University of Oxford; M.Ed. ’13, Hunter College
Policy counsel, Civil Rights Corps, Washington, D.C.


As the University’s “Expectations of Service” indicates, the committee’s Overseer nominees are typically distinguished individuals selected on the basis of their perceived experience, expertise, and ability to contribute “to reasoned deliberations by exercising careful and independent judgment, offering thoughtful, broad-based, and candid comments, asking probing questions,” and more, all while “respecting the views of others, and maintaining the collegial character of the Board’s discussions.”

Petition candidates, in contrast, often join the fray because they are motivated by a particular issue or issues—as was the case in 2016, and is certainly so in 2020. The HF candidates’ youth and emphasis on engaging and giving voice to recent graduates in effect embodies their governance-reform plank—and of course resonates with student (and other) divestment advocates’ pursuit of that change in University policy.

In this sense, the HF campaign will highlight nearly generational differences in how alumni relate to their alma mater, and how that may play out in the years ahead—as institutions and their extended communities cope with one another in an era of wide skepticism about institutions per se, their leaders, and indirect forms of representation.

Given HF’s organizational prowess to date, the campaign promises to be an intense and interesting one throughout this spring.  

Read the University announcement (including the separate slate of candidates for elected HAA directors) here.

Editor's note, February 19, 2020, 8:40 a.m.: Overseer candidate Susan Morris Novick, listed above, is a member of the Board of Directors of Harvard Magazine Inc., the parent of Harvard Magazine.


Read more articles by: John S. Rosenberg

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