Bringing political theory to university governance

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Bringing political theory to university governance
Bringing political theory to university governance: the
University of California and the Universidad Nacional
Autónoma de México
Brian Pusser
University of Virginia
Department of Educational Leadership,
Foundations & Policy
Curry School of Education
University of Virginia
(804) 924-7731
Imanol Ordorika
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México/
Villa Olímpica 18-501
México, DF 14020
The preparation of this chapter benefited from research assistance by Kristen M. Smith
One of the few things most scholars of higher education agree upon is that
universities around the world are facing increasing, and often conflicting, demands for
change (Duderstadt, 1999; Slaughter, 1998; Gumport and Pusser, 1997; Massy, 1997;
Neave and Van Vught 1994).
Those demands are driven by myriad factors, including
economic globalization (Carnoy and Castells, 1997; Slaughter and Leslie, 1997)
emerging technologies (Barley, 1996; Gibbons, 1995) market forces (Winston, 1999),
competition for access to elite institutions (Pusser, forthcoming) and social conflict
(Ordorika, 1999; Marginson, 1997). As universities prepare to chart an uncertain course
towards dynamic transformations, the issue of governance and policy-making moves to
the fore.
A great deal of contemporary literature in higher education has also been devoted
to emerging university responses to demands for change (Gumport and Pusser, 1999;
Katz, 1999; Powell and Olsen-Smith, 1999; Clark, 1998; Dill and Sporn, 1995). Most of
this literature accepts that universities will change, and turns attention to theories of
organizational behavior to suggest that such phenomena as institutional isomorphism
(DiMaggio and Powell, 1983), resource dependence (Pfeffer and Salancik, 1978), and
development of higher education institutions.
Despite their essentially apolitical nature theories of organization have rapidly
achieved a central status in higher education research on governance (Masten, 1996;
Moe, 1991; Wilson, 1989). As a result the study of higher education has also only rarely
addressed two key aspects of institutional transformation, power (Hardy, 1996; Pfeffer
and Salancik, 1974) and the role of education in broader conflicts over the allocation of
State resources (Rhoades,1992; Slaughter, 1991; Carnoy and Levin, 1985).
While important normative work has been produced on various aspects of
governance, including trusteeship (Cheit, Holland and Taylor, 1991; Kerr and Gade,
1989) institutional autonomy (Berdahl, 1990) and governance structures (Richardson,
Reeves-Bracco et al) little theoretical inquiry has been devoted to two essential questions
of governance: how are key decisions actually made in the postsecondary sector, and who
makes them? In order to advance our understanding of higher education governance and
policy-making, it is first essential to restore a political theoretical framework to the study
of higher education organizations. To that end we begin with an historical review of the
relationship between political science and theories of organization, and an overview of
the prevailing governance models in higher education research.
After presenting the
respective cases of governing board formation at UC and the UNAM we present data on
a contemporary episode of significant conflict over governance at each institution, to
better illustrate the utility of the political theoretical framework in these cases.
The separation of political theory and organization studies
The dearth of political theory in the study of higher education governance has
been particularly pronounced in the United States, though it is increasingly apparent in
other global sectors as well.
This is not surprising, as the study of organizations has
flourished in schools of business and management in the United States, and been widely
applied to the study of American and European higher education (Alfred and Carter,
1999; Robertson, 1999; Clark, 1998; Drucker, 1997; Oster, 1997; Peterson and Dill,
This has led to a school of research on higher education organizational
governance and policy-making in the United States that is at once ascendant and
distinctive for its apolitical orientation and discourse (Pusser, 1999).
The contrast to
similar research in Latin America, as one example, is striking. In Spanish the word for
policy is “politicas,” and in many areas of Latin American literature on higher education
policy-making is treated as politics, as is governance (Brunner 1989, 1990; Guevara
Niebla 1983). In the United States, governance and policy-making have continued to be
treated as organizational issues, not political ones. Our assumption throughout this work
is not only that policy-making is political, but that university policy-making is shaped by
university governance structures and processes, so that we use the terms governance and
policy-making virtually interchangeably.1
The initial separation of political science from the study of organizations in the
United States has been well documented (Shafritz and Hyde, 1987; Moe, 1991, 1995;
Masten, 1996). The divide is traced to the historical development of the study of Public
Administration, in which from the early part of the twentieth century administration and
politics were treated as quite separate entities (Moe, 1995).
Over time the study of
effective administration and organization became the focus of organizations theorists,
while political scientists turned attention to bureaucratic politics (Wilson, 1989).
recently a new wave of political science research in the United States, the positive theory
of institutions, has turned attention to institutions as elements in a broader political
process (McCubbins, 1985; McCubbins, Noll and Weingast, 1989; Moe, 1991; Milgrom
and Roberts, 1992; Eskridge and Ferejohn, 1992 Dixit, 1996).
While a few political
scientists and economists have turned a postive political theoretical lens on higher
education (Toma, 1986; Davis, 1990; McCormick and Meiners, 1988; Masten, 1995 (Old
School Ties) little of this work has emerged in higher education research or journals.
While recent increases in governing board activism in the United States have been
cited as examples of an increasing “politicization” of governance (Ikenberry, 1998,
Karabel, 1996) we suggest this is actually a
contemporary manifestation of what has
long been the case: public universities and their governing boards are political
institutions, public postsecondary policy-making is political action, and members of
public governing boards are political actors. Further, many of the contemporary demands
for change in global higher education either emerge directly from political conflict, or as
a result of resource allocation decisions made in political institutions (Ordorika, 1999).
In this chapter we suggest that a better understanding of the demands on
contemporary higher education - and of the emerging responses to those demands - will
be achieved by turning attention to those who stand atop institutional governance
We are mindful of the fact that there are varying perspectives on the relative importance of
governing boards in the policy process. This is in part a function of the particular institutions, governance
structures, and contexts under consideration. The role of governing boards in making policy also varies
with the type of policy being contested. We believe that in these cases, and arguably in many others, the
hierarchies, the members of university governing boards, and their allies in the broader
political economic environment.
To that end we present two case studies of the
formation and reproduction of powerful public higher education governing boards,2
through a lens attuned to the issues of power, State authority, and legitimacy in global
higher education
The Study of Higher Education Governance
University governance and policy-making structures around the world have long
been a site of study for higher education researchers (Dill, 1997; Neave and Van Vught,
1994; Bensimon, 1989; Millet, 1984; Clark, 1983; Levy 1980; Berdahl, 1971).
studies have identified a number of different governance arrangements in varied contexts.
Some researchers have focused on public universities administered by governments
directly or through governmental agencies (Neave and Van Vught, 1991).
Others have
analyzed higher education institutions that are characterized by faculty and university
administrative governance (Chait, Holland, and Taylor, 1996; Ingram, 1993; Clark,
1987). Literature in Britain, Canada and the United States has addressed a wide range of
institutions that are neither run in a completely autonomous fashion by faculty and
administrators, nor under the direct administration of governments and their agencies.
The most typical form of organization for these institutions revolves around a semiautonomous body: the board of trustees or governing board (Jones and Skolnik, 1997;
Chait, Holland and Taylor, 1996; Berdahl, 1990; Kerr and Gade, 1989; Clark 1983;
Nason 1982). An emerging body of literature has begun to focus on instances of crisis in
the contemporary university and the role of governing boards under crises (Ordorika,
1999; Pusser, 1999; Herideen, 1998). Attention in this literature is centered on a key set
of actors who are in a unique position to either facilitate or resist the calls for reform and
transformation: the members of public university governing boards (Pusser, forthcoming;
AGB, 1998; Peterson, 1996; Jones and Skolnik, 1997).
highest degree of institutional power in the policy process, and the ultimate authority over policy rests with
the governing board.
We focus here on public governing boards and public institutions. While many of the same
issues apply to private higher education institutions and their governing boards, the history and
organizational contexts of private institutions are sufficiently distinct to warrant separate study.
The Role of Public Governing Boards
The majority of governing boards has been founded on similar principles in an
attempt to provide a measure of oversight of institutional policies, and to serve as a
mediating force between universities on one hand, and governments, markets, and
societies on the other (Clark, 1983). Most boards are legitimized on the grounds of the
alleged expertise of their members, and their independence from external interest group
or governmental intervention (Ikenberry, 1998 Kerr and Gade, 1989; Nason, 1982).
While there is significant variation in the composition, attributes, origin, appointment
procedures and roles of governing boards, they are generally seen as providing stability,
accountability, and responsible decision-making.
In the national contexts of the United States and Mexico, public governing boards
are intended to be democratic institutions, with a membership broadly representative of
their local and national constituencies. In many cases this broad representation is part of
the founding constitutional mandates of the Boards.
The California state constitution
contains this clause with regard to the composition of the University of California
Regents: “Regents shall be able persons broadly reflective of the economic, cultural, and
social diversity of the State, including ethnic minorities and women.”3
Few studies have applied cross-national comparative perspectives to the historical
and contemporary composition of governing boards, and their functions. Our assumption
is that given their roles as representative bodies in quite different social and political
contexts, the governing boards of the University of California and UNAM should have
been created and constituted over time quite differently. To address that assumption we
begin with a review of the literature on governance and policy-making in higher
Literature on Governance in higher education
A systematic examination of the literature on governance in higher education
shows the gaps and limitations of existing theory.
It also provides the necessary
foundations for the development of new conceptual frames that will enhance our
Constitution of California, Art. IX, Section IX (d) as amended November 2, 1976.
understanding of the subject matter: the relation between power, politics, and governance
in higher education.
In this chapter we will both summarize the development of this field of research,
and present a synthesis of the literature in widely accepted models of higher education
governance in different contexts.
It is important to establish that while this review
includes a few works on higher education governance developed in Latin America, the
majority of the literature reviewed here is based on research from the United States,
Canada and Western Europe.
In looking at the literature on governance and change in higher education, we
trace some concepts and ideas that are central to this research.
First, if a basic
assumption is that power and politics are core drivers for change in higher education, it is
important to have a clear understanding of underlying assumptions about power. For this
purpose, we look at the use of concepts such as conflict, consensus, and resistance.
Second, traditional approaches to governance in higher education have made a
distinction between governance, management, and leadership.
The first concept refers
only to the structure and process of decision-making. The second points to the structure
and process for implementing or executing these decisions, while the third refers to the
structures (positions, offices, and formal roles) and processes through which individuals
seek to influence decisions (Mets and Peterson, 1987). We feel that it is fundamentally
important to expand and clarify these distinctions.
Traditional analyses accept a
differentiation between technical/functional and political issues in higher education
governance that also grows out of theories of organization, but is not borne out in
emerging research on higher education governance and decision-making (Pusser,
Evolution of the Study of Higher Education Governance
A number of authors have suggested that much of the key literature on
governance in higher education in the United States has developed since the early
nineteen sixties (Hardy, 1990; Chaffee, 1987; Mets and Peterson, 1987; Peterson, 1985).
There are several reasons for the appearance and rapid expansion of this area of study.
Among these are: the growth in size and complexity of colleges and universities; the
increasing importance of higher education as a social institution; growth in government
funding and oversight of higher education; and increased social conflicts that have been
reflected within higher education (Mets and Peterson, 1987).
Mets and Peterson (1987) argue that the evolution of the study of governance has
been related to the development of higher education itself, and they identify four eras in
the United States that are similar to evolution processes of higher education in other
countries. The first period is described as an era of growth and rising expectations. They
suggest that during the 1950s and 1960s there was a strong commitment to the expansion
of higher education at all levels. This was a period of enrollment growth, emergence of
new campuses, and increasing complexity of higher education institutions.
movement towards mass education generated social optimism about higher education and
the expansion of administrative cohorts and functions.
Two influential research
frameworks for the study of governance were developed in this period: the bureaucratic
model (Stroup, 1966) and the collegial model (Goodman, 1962; Millett, 1962).
Mets and Peterson’s second era is characterized as a period of increasing conflict.
Student struggles and faculty collective bargaining processes in the late nineteen sixties
and early seventies generated new concerns about university governance.
professionalization of faculty, and “external” issues like the Civil Rights movement and
the Vietnam War brought such issues as student and faculty power and autonomy onto
the policy agenda.
Two additional governance frames were developed in this second
epoch: the open system model (Katz and Kahn, 1978) and the political (Baldridge, 1971).
The third period described by Mets and Peterson is an era of consolidation and
economic recession.
Financial constraints supplanted activism as the main concern on
campuses in this period. Against the backdrop of a rise in environmental pressure, Cohen
and March (1974) developed an influential model of universities as organized anarchies.
At the same time, other institutional theorists suggested that environments could shape, to
a great extent, the meanings, values, and structures of higher education organizations
(Meyer and Rowan, 1978).
This era also witnessed the initial development of
management techniques designed to address financial scarcity, a generally rare
phenomenon at that point in the post-war era (Gumport and Pusser, 1997).
The fourth era in Mets and Peterson’s typology is presented as a time of
“reduction and redirection.” An increased focus on retrenchment, reduction, and
reallocation generated a transition from earlier “open system” models towards ecological
approaches to higher education governance.
The new emphasis on goal redefinition,
change in mission, and selection of new clienteles suggested that higher education
institutions could effectively adapt to their surrounding environmental pressures.
The brief description of the evolution of the field provided by Mets and Peterson
demonstrates both that research on higher education governance grew rapidly and that
analytic approaches evolved into more complex models to deal with shifting contexts
(Chaffee, 1987).
Models of Governance in Higher Education.
Research on higher education governance has generally been focused on four
major analytical models: bureaucratic–rational, collegial, political, and garbage can or
symbolic (Hardy, 1990; Bensimon, 1989; Chaffee, 1987; Mets and Peterson, 1987;
Peterson, 1985; Baldridge et al., 1983; Riley and Baldridge, 1977; Baldridge, 1971). A
review of those models will help ground our case study presentations.
The Bureaucratic Framework
In developing a bureaucratic model of governance, Stroup (1966) argued that
university governance demonstrates many of the characteristics described by Weber in
his work on bureaucracy.
The main characteristics of bureaucracy in Weberian terms
include: a fixed division of labor among participants; a hierarchy of offices; a set of
general rules that govern performance; the separation of personal from official property
and rights; the selection of personnel on the basis of technical qualifications; and a
careerist perspective on employment by participants (Weber, 1978). In Stroup’s rational
perspective, organizations are seen as mechanistic hierarchies with clearly established
lines of authority.
Within this model organizational goals are clear, and the organization
is a closed system insulated from environmental penetration, and administrative leaders
have the power to analyze a problem, evaluate various solutions, and execute their
preferred strategies (Scott, 1992).
The bureaucratic model also turns attention to the stability of structure in higher
education organizations. It is a perspective highly associated with rational leadership and
decision-making and management control of existing functions and tasks.
Several authors have pointed out that many other basic features of bureaucracies
are not addressed in Stroup’s model of governance.
Baldridge (1971) argued that the
bureaucratic model focuses on authority (legitimate, formalized power) but excludes
other types of power (mass movements, power based on expertise, and power based on
appeals to emotion and sentiment). He also maintained that the bureaucratic model deals
with governance structures but not with decision–making processes; and that it has
difficulties in dealing with change.
Blau (1973) pointed out the existing contradictions
between authority based on position and authority based on expertise as another
weakness of the traditional bureaucratic model.
In a second generation of research on
governance, authors have focused on the latter issue (Hardy, 1990).
In Professional
(1991) Henry Mintzberg argued that traditional bureaucratic authority
coexists in higher education organizations with a bureaucracy based in professional
The latter differs from the traditional approach in that behavior is shaped by
commitment to values based in professional rather than institutional organizational
Coordination of activities is the product of a standardization of skills, and
professional standards and norms are largely legitimated outside the organization
(Mintzberg, 1991).
The Collegial Framework
The explanatory limitations of the traditional bureaucratic model opened the way
for other views of the university as a “collegium” or a “community of scholars”
(Baldridge, 1971).
In the collegial frame, organizations are viewed as collectivities with
organizational members as their primary resource.
It emphasizes participatory,
democratic decision–making, human needs, and ways in which organizations can be
tailored to meet them. Colleges are pictured as communities of scholars (Millett, 1962)
who determine and control organizational goals on the basis of their professional
expertise and a shared value system.
The collegial frame is particularly useful for
understanding stable organizations, or organizational sub–units in which preferences are
developed by interactive consensus (Bensimon, 1989).
Collegial views also emphasize the importance of both decentralized structures
and consensual decision–making processes (Hardy, 1990).
As a result this model
provides very few insights into decision–making processes. Consensus is presented as a
natural consequence of shared values and responsibilities within the institution, and
conflict is virtually absent from this theoretical perspective.
The Political Framework
Baldridge (1971) assumes that complex organizations can be studied as miniature
political systems.
His framework, often refered to as an interest-articulation model, is
based on three theoretical perspectives: conflict theory (Coser, 1964; Dahrendorf, 1959),
literature on community (Dahl, 1966), and work on interest groups in organizations
(Selznick, 1949).
From the political perspective organizations are seen as composed of formal and
informal groups competing for power over institutional processes and outcomes.
Decisions result from bargaining, influencing, and coalition building.
This frame
assumes that colleges and universities are pluralistic entities comprised of groups with
different interests and values (Baldridge, 1971).
Conflict, which is not particularly
salient in the two previous frames, is here a central feature of organizational life. While
Salancik and Pfeffer (1974) suggested a political approach focused on organizational
structure, Baldridge emphasized the decision-making process.
A major weakness of the model is its failure to account for the persistence of
higher education organizations in the midst of continuous conflict (Hardy, 1990).
and Baldridge provided a second version of this political model in which they argued that
conflict is not constant (1983; 1977).
They suggested that their original model
underestimated the impact of routine bureaucratic processes, and that a variety of
political processes had not been acknowledged. They expressed the need to pay more
attention to environmental factors.4
Finally they recognized that their model had not
sufficiently recognized the importance of
long–term decision–making patterns, and
failed to consider the ways in which institutional structures shape and constrain political
efforts (Baldridge et al., 1983).
In qualifying the political frame, Baldridge provided a mixed model.
downplayed the political nature of university governance and incorporated elements of
the bureaucratic, collegial and garbage can models.
The resulting framework is
ambiguous and does not provide a clear idea of what conditions make politics and
conflict likely to emerge (Hardy, 1990).
It has also been argued that the “political”
mediation and interest articulation in the Baldridge model is considerably less effective in
contests of prolonged duration, those that are particularly complex, and those with great
salience in broader state and national political struggles (Ordorika, 1999; Pusser, 1999).
The Symbolic Framework
Within this analytical framework organizations are seen as systems of shared
meanings and beliefs, from which organizational governance structures and processes
Leaders construct and maintain systems of shared meanings, paradigms,
common cultural perceptions and languages (Pfeffer, 1981) by sustaining rituals, symbols
and myths that create a unifying system of belief for the institution (Bensimon, 1989).
In higher education literature Cohen and March's Leadership and Ambiguity
(1974) presents one of the most prominent analyses of governance as a symbolic process.
Cohen and March characterize universities as “organized anarchies” because of their
problematic goals, unclear technology, and fluid participation:
In a university–anarchy each individual in the university is seen as making
autonomous decisions. Teachers decide if, when and what to teach.
Students decide if, when and what to learn. Legislators and donors decide
if, when and what to support. Neither coordination nor control is practiced.
Resources are allocated by whatever process emerges but without explicit
accommodation and without explicit reference to some super ordinate goal.
Baldridge states that “Colleges and universities are somewhere in the middle of a continuum
from “independent” to “captured.” In many respects they are insulated from their environment. Recently,
however, powerful external forces have been applied to academic institutions. Interest groups holding
conflicting values have made their wishes, demands, and threats well known to the administrations and
faculties of organizations in the 1970s” (Baldridge, 1971).
The “decisions” of the system are a consequence produced by the system
but intended by no one and decisively controlled by no one.
The symbolic governance model emphasized the growing complexity of higher
education institutions and viewed the decision–making process as analogous to a
“garbage can.” The garbage can model does not presume any structural arrangement of
Its basic assumption is that decision-making is a non–rational process in
which independent streams of participants, problems, solutions, and choice opportunities
are linked through coincidence in time. Solutions are generated on the basis of university
officials’ personal priorities, and those are in turn matched to particular problems.
perspective focuses mainly on leadership and presidential activity.
Politics and conflict
are of lesser importance, power is ambiguous, and focused on the president (Cohen and
March, 1974).
Cultural models, a new generation of research
Cynthia Hardy (1990) argues that these four models were developed in a first
generation of research. A second generation,
continued to explore the bureaucratic/professional continuum. The garbage
can was often cited, but there were few attempts to systematically examine
or empirically verify it. Collegiality as a consensual process remained
relatively undeveloped. The political frame started to attract attention, as
did the idea of mixed models (Hardy, 1990).
This second generation has provided a more complex view of university
Research on professional bureaucracy (Mintzberg, 1991) has enhanced the
understanding of internal structures, and mixed models have been developed that
combine the bureaucratic, collegial, and political models. These hybrids have identified a
bureaucratic/collegial structure (Childers, 1981) and consider consensus and conflict as
an integral process of decision-making (Hardy, 1990).
The new generation of research has also focused renewed attention on university
culture, both at the level of the discipline, and the institution.
These studies have
extended the development of organizational cultural perspectives in management
literature. Organizational culture is seen as a persistent patterned way of thinking about
the organization’s goals and tasks, the human relations within the organization, the forms
of coordination, and its relation to the broader environment (Bensimon, 1989).
research conceptualizing a social construction of reality (Berger and Luckmann, 1966)
helped open the way for cultural approaches to the study of education.
Burton Clark
(1983; 1972; 1971; 1970) advanced this perspective in higher education with his work on
beliefs and university sagas.
Other pioneering works emphasized culture as an external variable that plays a
major role in shaping goals, control structures, and relations within organizations (Meyer
and Rowan, 1978).
Culture has also been portrayed as an internal component of
organizations’ ability to articulate belief and meaning into an organizational mission.
1974 Cohen and March suggested that higher education institutions encompassed a wide
range of cultures. This approach has attracted a variety of scholars in the field of higher
education. One critique of the culture approach is that efforts to address this issue have
often been made with traditional theoretical stances and methodologies that are not wellsuited for cultural studies (Hardy, 1990).
Positive Theories of Institutions and Higher Education
Another theoretical paradigm, the positive theory of institutions (PTI), has
recently and widely been applied to research on the organization and governance of
public institutions (Horn, 1995; Moe, 1991; Mashaw, 1990; Calvert, McCubbins, and
Weingast, 1989). PTI uses theories from political science that address the structuring of
political institutions and political organizations for partisan gain.
From an initial
application to research on political organizations and bureaucratic structures, this work
has subsequently been applied to studying educational institutions in general (Chubb and
forthcoming; Youn, 1997; Masten, 1993).
The Positive Theory of Institutions grew out of work on social choice (Shepsle,
1986; Hammond and Miller, 1983; Arrow, 1974; Olsen, 1965). Arrow and other social
choice theorists pointed out that although majority rule policy-making is unstable and
leaves a great deal undetermined, the political process itself, and political institutions
such as the Congress, are quite stable.
PTI offered an explanation: political institutions
and the process of structuring those institutions brought stability to majority rule voting,
shaped the outcome of those votes, and offered a mechanism for successfully
implementing the gains from control of majority rule decision-making (Moe, 1991). PTI
turned attention to public authority, suggesting that without the exercise of public
authority through political institutions electoral activities would be far less effective in
shaping policy.
That is, few individuals or interest groups would “contract” to allow a
majority rule body to decide gains or losses on a particular issue. Since in a democratic
institutions many policy decisions are made in precisely this fashion, interest groups have
an increased incentive to organize such political institutions as legislatures and governing
boards in order to protect and privilege particular gains (Masten, 1996; Moe, 1991).
The new economics of organization proved a quite useful component of PTI, as it
added insights from economic theory, particularly agency theory and transaction cost
economics (Calvert, McCubbins and Weingast, 1989; Bendor, 1988; Williamson, 1985;
Moe, 1984) to the analysis of the structural form of political institutions.
In this
application, agency theory suggests that economic life is a series of contracts between
purchasers of goods or services (the principal) and the provider of those services and
goods (the agent).
Principal-agent contracts between individuals are a staple of modern
life, and within the PTI framework the relationship between institutions, state legislatures
and state universities for example, can be conceptualized as a principal-agent contract.
In applying positive theories of institutions to postsecondary governance,
researchers have conceptualized the university as a site of struggle between competing
interest groups seeking influence over public benefits and seeking to use the organization
as part of a broader political process (Pusser forthcoming; Youn, 1997; Masten, 1993).
Among the central elements in that interest group struggle are control of the agenda for
(Hammond and Hill, 1993), ex ante legislative design of institutional governance
structures (Masten, 1993; Weingast and Marshall, 1988), the personal relationships
between policy actors apart from any formal relationships (Parsons, 1997) and the control
of the allocation of costs and benefits from institutional policy (Wilson, 1989; 1980).
Masten (1996) has suggested that the policies that emerge from the public
postsecondary system have enormous value for actors and formations inside and outside
the institutions. He further suggests that higher education can be conceptualized as a key
commodity in its own right, and the postsecondary policy formation process is
consequently seen as an interest group struggle for that commodity value. PTI has been
applied to a number of aspects of higher education governance, including Masten’s
(1996; 1995) work on the structure of faculty organizations and the setting of tuition,
Youn’s (1997) research on the politics of curricular reform, and the confirmation
dynamics of postsecondary governing boards (Pusser, forthcoming).
There are also a number of limitations on the PTI perspective. Foremost, positive
theories of institutions rely on pluralist assumptions about the governance of public
institutions (March and Olsen, 1995; Carnoy and Levin, 1985; Hobbes, 1968; Locke,
1955; Dahl, 1956). The pluralist, “common good” assumption suggests that the political
system allows for representative expression of the general will.
A number of authors
have pointed to weaknesses in pluralist approaches, including the acceptance of pluralism
as a socially efficient allocative mechanism, the presumption that individual choices
aggregate for the highest social benefit, and the reliance on meritocracy and expertise as a
basis for disproportionate allocations of decision-making power (Rhoades, 1992; Carnoy
and Levin, 1985).
Another shortcoming of research in the PTI paradigm is that to date it has done
little to address deeper questions of power and conflict. While models turn attention to
the role of political parties in state and national policy-making, they stop short of deeper
questions about the control of interest groups, and the role of the State as mediator of
demands by organized interests.
Ideology in Higher Education Research
A considerable body of research has emerged in the past two decades that deals
with issues of culture and ideology in higher education.
Much of this literature has
looked at epistemological and theoretical issues with regard to the ideological nature of
the social construction of reality, knowledge and culture (Tierney and Rhoades, 1993;
Tierney, 1991; Hardy, 1990; Chaffee and Tierney, 1988; Gumport, 1988; Tierney, 1988).
Many critical and postmodernist approaches use this perspective in theoretical
developments (Tierney and Rhoades, 1993; Lincoln, 1991), but only a few articles and
books apply this theoretical frame to practical research.
A powerful exception is the
work of Sheila Slaughter, who has focused attention on ideology in higher education
policy, discourse and finance (Slaughter, 1993; Slaughter, 1990; Slaughter and Silva,
Theories of the State and Governance
One of the most important limitations in existing research on governance is that
most studies do not account for the role of higher education in the broader State
(Rhoades, 1993; Carnoy and Levin, 1985). Historically, research on higher education has
adopted an implicit view of the State as either a source of funding or as an intrusive force
interfering with the development of professional and scientific expertise (Slaughter,
Underlying this implicit view of the State is a powerful belief in the apolitical
nature of education (Wirt and Kirst, 1972). Based on an extensive review of literature on
higher education, Rhoades (1993) demonstrated that the implicit view of the State and the
belief in the apolitical nature of post–secondary education has been promoted in research
by university scholars on academic work and academic institutions.
Much of that
research has assumed that higher education institutions are politically neutral and
autonomous organizations with legitimacy based in professional expertise and rational
organization (Rhoades, 1993). The State is seen as an external adversary, inefficient and
intrusive. Rhoades also suggests that these assumptions are rooted in a structuralist and
pluralist view of the State that permeates the work of higher education scholars.
Similarly, Wolin (1991) argues that the political nature of governance is obscured
by the implicit presentation of the government as an apolitical site of decision-making.
Taken together this literature suggests that an understanding of the role of higher
education institutions in the State is essential to understanding contemporary higher
education governance and policy-making.
The State and public higher education
A class view of the State, in the classic Marx/Engels formulation, suggested that
the State was an instrument for perpetuating and reproducing the dominance of the
capitalist class (Marx, 1867). Subsequently a variety of perspectives emerged from that
formulation, including Gramsci’s (1971) vision of hegemony as key to understanding
class conflict and contest.
Gramsci addressed bourgeois hegemony over civil society, a
hegemony rooted, according to Gramsci, not only in the use of the State as a coercive
instrument, but in bourgeois hegemony within the State itself.
Gramsci’s work brought
attention to the role of the State and its institutions, including education, as sites of
contest, and led to further variations on State theory, including the structuralist view put
forth by Althusser (1971) and for a time, Poulantzas (1974). Althusser suggested there
are essential economic, political and ideological structures in society, including the State,
in which the ideology of capitalist production is reproduced.
Bowles and Gintis (1976) presented a reproductivist view of the function of the
education system.
They argued that, “the educational system, basically, neither adds to
nor subtracts from the degree of inequality and repression originating in the economic
Rather, it reproduces and legitimates a preexisting pattern in the process of
training and stratifying the work force,” (1976, page 265).
Resistance theorists (Apple, 1982; Aronowitz, 1981; Giroux, 1981; Willis, 1981)
challenged the strict reproductivist view by restoring a strong degree of agency to the
process of reproduction.
Resistance theory suggests that schools are contested sites
characterized by structural and ideological contradictions and student resistance, where
subordinate cultures both reproduce and resist the dominant society (Aronowitz and
Giroux, 1993; Freire, 1970).
Other class theorists have also suggested that State institutions, with their own
inherent contradictions, rather than being entirely reproductive, were also sites of contest
(Habermas, 1975; O’Connor, 1973; Offe, 1972). The modern capitalist State from this
“contested” perspective embodies a tension between demands by the dominant group for
reproduction of the inequalities inherent in the capitalist means of production, and the
demands of subordinate groups seeking redress of those inequalities (Poulantzas, 1974).
The hegemonic view offered a useful framework for thinking about the relationship
between education and the State, as it located the education system as a site of conflict
within the State, and as it conceptualized the State as a fluid institution conditioned by,
and enacted through, class struggle.
A number of researchers have extended this
proposition to suggest that the education system is not a de facto site of the reproduction
of inequality, but more accurately a site of contest, with the potential for equalization and
democratization as well (Labaree, 1997; Slaughter, 1988; Carnoy and Levin, 1985).
Carnoy and Levin argue that contests over the provision of education can be seen
as one part of a broader societal conflict rooted in the inequalities of income, access,
opportunity and power inherent in the nature of economic production. They describe the
tension as “the conflict between reforms aimed at reproducing the inequalities required
for social efficiency under monopoly capitalism and reforms aimed at equalizing
opportunities in pursuit of democratic and constitutional ideals,” (1985, pg. 24). Labaree
(1997) following Bowles and Gintis (1990) conceptualizes the conflict pointed to by
Carnoy and Levin as an essentially political dynamic.
Labaree characterizes the tension
as one between democratic politics (public rights) and capitalist markets (private rights)
and suggests that these inherently contradictory goals have been expressed as three
essential and competing educational goals: democratic equality, social efficiency and
social mobility.
He suggests that, “In an important way, all three of these goals are
political, in that all are efforts to establish the purposes and functions of an essential
social institution,” (1997, pg. 42).
Offe (1974) extended the “contested State” perspective to include the proposition
that the State becomes a contestant in its own right as it seeks to resolve the tension
between its capital accumulation dynamic and its social welfare function. Skocpol (1985;
1992) carried this a definitive step further declaring that “the State is a structure with a
logic and interests of its own” (Mann, 1993, pg. 52).
The issue of how autonomous the State can be from the demands of economic
production and powerful elites in the civil and political society has been widely debated
(Domhoff, 1990; Jessop, 1990; Weir, Orloff, and Skocpol, 1988). Building on Weber’s
insights on political institutions, and the work of Weir, Orloff, Skocpol and other State
institutionalists, Mann (1993) proposed that State autonomy is expressed through State
political institutions, which in turn constrain future struggles. As Mann described it:
States are essentially sites in which dynamic social relations become
authoritatively institutionalized, they readily lend themselves to a kind of
‘political lag’ theory. States institutionalize present social conflicts, but
institutionalized historical conflicts then exert considerable power over new
conflicts” (1993).
From this perspective “political struggles and policy outcomes are promised to be
jointly conditioned by the institutional arrangements of the State and by class and other
social relationships, but never once and for all,” (Weir, Orloff and Skocpol, 1988, pg.
That is, it is the existing social and political formations that shape policy, the fit
between political institutions and group capacities are transformative and lead to further
contest. Mann concludes that, “Degrees of success in achieving political goals -including
the enactment of social legislation- depend on the relative opportunities that existing
political institutions offer to the group or movement in question, and simultaneously deny
to its opponents and competitors” (1993, pg. 54).
In a pioneering work on academic freedom and the State, Slaughter (1988) traced
the growth of higher education as both outcome and catalyst for the larger growth of the
American State in the post WW II era.
She found that the rapid growth in the broad
distribution of access to the benefits of higher education in the post-war period was also
part of the growth of the distribution of State benefits in the same era.
She noted a
particular tension emerging from the growth of higher education within the State, that
growth created opportunities for both economic production and a wide variety of reform
movements that were supported by professional expertise developed in higher education
institutions, such as the EPA, OSHA, and the Clean Water Act. At the same time, “State
funding for higher education was used to meet the demands of production for a more
highly technical work force and very often continued to reproduce values and norms
consistent with unequal relations of production,” (1988, page 245).
Following Carnoy and Levin’s conceptualization of these tensions in education
institutions, Slaughter concluded that, “it may be necessary to conceive of the State and
For example, the State and higher education are both the subject and
object of struggle.
They are arenas of conflict in which various groups try to win
ideological hegemony, yet at the same time they are resources for members of contending
groups intent on political mobilization in external arenas,” (Slaughter, 1988, pg. 245).
Slaughter’s conceptualization makes an important contribution to the study of conflict
over higher education as a State resource, and to the question of whose interests are
served by emerging policy in higher education.
Dimensions of the political struggle for power
The development of a political framework for the study of higher education
governance also shifts attention to elite formations and the struggle for power, where
power is understood as the potential to determine outcomes (Hardy, 1990) on three
dimensions (Lukes, 1974).
The first dimension is that of the actors, structure, and
process of decision–making (Dahl, 1966; Weber, Mills and Gerth, 1946). The second
addresses the control of the political agenda (Bachrach and Baratz, 1970).
The third
dimension is the process of shaping and incorporating perceptions, cognitions, and
preferences (Lukes, 1974) into a dominant ideology5 (Gramsci, 1971).
Elite studies were originally developed by classical theorists Gaetano Mosca
(1939), Vilfredo Pareto (1935), and Robert Michels. Classical elite theorists recognized
unequal distribution of power as inevitable. The minority that possessed the largest share
of power was defined as the governing or political elite (Pareto, 1935). For Pareto and
Mosca, the character, abilities, and expertise of political leaders determined the power
structure of society (Parry, 1969).
For traditional class theorists on the other hand, political leaders were
representatives of the dominant economic class.
The class–structure of society
determined the political system. James Burnham and C. Wright Mills synthesized earlier
work and suggested that elite power emanated both from control of economic production
(Burnham, 1942), and as a consequence of the occupation of positions in key institutions
in society (Mills, 1956).
Two Case Studies of Governing boards
As a site for the study of the politics of governance we have turned attention to
the composition and appointment process of public governing boards.
Following C.
Wright Mills (1956) and Domhoff (1990) on elite formations; Bowles and Gintis (1986),
Barrow (1990) and March and Olsen (1995) on democratic representation in education;
Gramsci distinguishes between rule and domination. A group rules or leads when it is able to
exercise power in a hegemonic way. To do this the group has to establish previously an “intellectual and
moral leadership” (one of the principal conditions of winning such power). Even if the group holds power
firmly, it must continue to lead as well (Gramsci, 1971).
and Carnoy and Levin (1985) and Slaughter (1988) on the use of State theory in the study
of education; we suggest that the composition of governing boards and the alliances and
allegiances of their memberships, are a key and understudied element of governance and
In an effort to broaden understanding of the role of governing boards in
transformation processes associated with higher education, we have selected two distinct
cases: the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), and the University of
California (UC). We find these appropriate sites for comparative study, as the University
of California and the UNAM operate mindful of powerful missions and historical
legacies of commitment to broad access, tuition-free public higher education (Ordorika,
1999; Douglass, 1992). Both universities have overcome a number of institutional crises
since their respective foundings and each has grown to become a large, highly regarded
and influential university in its own national system.
Throughout the twentieth century,
in their respective national settings, each of these institutions has been the site of
powerful challenges to institutional policy and governance that have far-reaching
implications for higher education (Ordorika, 1996; Douglass, 1995; Martínez and
Ordorika, 1993; Muñoz, 1989; Guevara, 1985; Stadtman, 1970; Gardner, 1967).
Each of these institutions has been subject to a broad array of contemporary calls
for change, including increasing demands for productivity and efficiency, privatization,
re-organization of faculty and staff labor, and increased contributions to local and
national economic development.
Both UNAM and UC have been engaged in bitter
contemporary contests over access and diversity policies, and have been challenged by
external political and economic interest groups seeking to enlist the university in wider
political campaigns.
Since their respective foundings the governing boards of UNAM
and UC have enjoyed considerable constitutional autonomy and have evinced similar
commitments to professional expertise and institutional autonomy in the conduct of the
Alongside these similarities exist significant conditions and formations unique to
each university and its context. While the boards at the two institutions share an overall
common purpose, they differ to considerable degree in terms of their origin, size,
appointment procedures, responsibilities, and scope of decision-making authority.
Data Collection
This research addresses the question of how governing boards have been founded
and maintained in two distinct universities in different national settings.
For each of the
universities in this study data collection techniques have been employed that were most
appropriate for the specific context, and in light of the available sources of historical data.
For the case of UNAM data were drawn from three distinct sources. The first
data source was transcriptions of the debates and legal proceedings that gave birth to the
governing board at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in 1944-45, with a
focus on the arguments for the creation of the Board (Junta de Gobierno), the legislative
mandate, and the appointment procedures. These were supplemented by the minutes of
the University Council since 1945. The second data source consisted of historical records
and biographies for the 111 members of the Board since its founding in 1945. Finally,
twenty-five semi-structured interviews were conducted with key actors at the UNAM.
Interviewees included student and faculty leaders, former rectors, deans, administrators,
and former and current members of the Board.
The data collection for the analysis of the Board of Regents of the University of
California consisted of three strands of complementary research.
First, data were
collected on the constitutional origin of the Regents beginning with the creation of the
University in 1868.
Each significant legislative or constitutional change in the terms,
conditions or appointment procedures for the Regents for the period 1868-1998 was
documented for the case study. Second, historical records and biographies were reviewed
for over 250 Regents who have served on the Board since the founding.
State legislative
hearing transcripts were also evaluated for insight into the appointment process and for
the role of state political actors in the appointment and confirmation of Regents. Those
transcripts were supplemented by historical reports on the confirmation process contained
in the California Oral History Project located in the University of California Bancroft
Library Archives. Third, data were gathered to reflect the contemporary role of Regents,
and their appointment and confirmation to the Board. These data were collected through
twenty-five semi-structured interviews with present and former Regents, representatives
This total includes both appointed and ex-officio Regents.
of University faculty and staff organizations, members of the staff of the Governor of
representatives of interest groups who testified at confirmation hearings for a number of
contemporary Regents.
The UC Governance and Policy-making Structure: History and Context
The University
Founded in 1868, the University of California was created as a public, land grant
university, and is administered under the authority of a constitutionally empowered Board
of Regents.
The University consists of nine campuses: Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los
Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz.
campuses provide undergraduate, graduate, and professional education; a ninth, San
Francisco, focuses on the health sciences.
Association of American Universities.
Six UC campuses are members of the
The University has established five teaching
hospitals and numerous clinics, three law schools, over 150 University institutes, centers,
and research laboratories, and three contract laboratories for the Department of Energy.
The total operating budget for the University of California in FY 98 was over eleven
billion dollars.
In the academic year 1997, the University awarded over 29,000 bachelor's
degrees, and over 12,000 graduate and professional degrees. Total system enrollment for
Fall 1997 was just under 170,000 students, about three quarters of whom were
Over ninety percent of the students are drawn from California, one of
the most ethnically and demographically diverse populations in the United States.
1939, UC faculty have been awarded 32 Nobel Prizes.
UC offers academic study
programs in more than 150 disciplines, with UC academic programs rated among the top
10 nationally more often than those of any other university. UC also produces nearly 10
percent of the nation's Ph.D.s and produces more research leading to patented inventions
than any other public or private research organization.7
Source = Profile of the University, University of California Office of the President, 1998.
Oakland, CA.
The contemporary context for governance at the University of California has been
shaped by three key factors: (1) the constitutional autonomy from legislative intervention
granted the Regents by the Organic Act and the California constitution of 1879 and its
revisions; (2) the constitutional provision calling for the majority of the Board to be
appointed by the governor, subject, after 1972, to state senate confirmation; and (3) the
passage in 1960 of the California Master Plan for Higher Education in 1960, which
codified UC’s position as the elite provider of public higher education in California.
The First California Constitution and the Organic Act
The origin and composition of the University of California’s governing board, the
Regents of the University of California, can be traced to the California constitutional
convention of 1849, held in Monterey. At that convention article IX of the constitution
was adopted, providing that funds received from the sale of federal land grants upon
California’s adoption to statehood would be used for the funding of schools and the
establishment of a common university.
Morrill Act.
Those funds were provided in 1862 by the
In 1868 the California legislature passed the Organic Act authorizing the
creation of a single state public university, the University of California.
The Organic Act also delineated the structure of the first UC Board of Regents, a
structure that would remain remarkably unchanged for the next 130 years. The Organic
Act created a Board with eight members appointed by the governor, serving sixteen-year
terms with staggering of appointments. The appointed Regents were joined on the Board
by six ex-officio members, the governor, the lieutenant governor, speaker of the
assembly, superintendent of public instruction, and the presidents of the State Agriculture
Society and the Mechanic’s Institute.
The appointed and ex-officio Regents were
responsibly jointly appointing eight additional Regents, making the total on the Board 24.
Under the Organic Act the power to choose a President was vested in the Board,
and even before appointing the first President the Regents selected a core faculty. From
that point the Act proscribed that:
The immediate government and discipline of the several colleges shall be
entrusted to their respective Faculties...for approval by the Regents.
Further, all the faculties and instructors of the University shall be combined
into a body which shall be known as the Academic Senate, which shall have
stated meetings at regular intervals, and be presided over by the President...
and which is created for the purpose of conducting the general
administration of the University, (Organic Act, California Statutes of 186768, in Douglass, 1992, p. 41).
The Second California Constitution
In 1869 the University welcomed its first class, numbering 38 students, and by the
time of the second California constitutional convention, held in Sacramento in 1879, the
University was under political siege.
A coalition of Grange members, Henry Georgists
and the Mechanics delegates were promising to disband the Regents and place the
University under the control of a legislative board (Douglass, 1992).
Their fundamental
complaint was that the University had never complied with the Morrill Act stipulation
that its primary purpose should be training in agriculture and the mechanical arts.
Instead, the bulk of the University’s programs were dedicated to liberal arts and the
They also felt that the land grant university had become the captive of
California’s elite, that it was created out of collusion between bankers, railroad owners,
and business interests for their own benefit, at the expense of farmers and other workers
(Douglass, 1992; Ferrier, 1930). A primary target of their ire was University President
Daniel Coit Gilman, whom they suspected of guiding the University to promote elite
educational ideals at the expense of practical training.
They also complained about the
appointed members of the Board of Regents, noting that its membership consisted of
“merchants, lawyers, physicians and devines, devoid of one practical and experienced
educator,” (Schulte, in Douglass, 1992, pg. 51).
The Grange introduced a bill into the
California senate in 1874 to reorganize the Regents so that the Board would consist of
seven ex-officio Regents and eight elected Regents, one from each of the state’s eight
congressional districts.
Although the legislature resisted efforts to revise the University
governance structure, Gilman, an early believer in academic freedom, resigned to take the
job as first president of Johns Hopkins. In his resignation letter he wrote, “However well
we may build up the University of California, its foundations are unstable, because it is
dependent on legislative control and popular clamor,” (Gilman, in Douglass, 1992, p. 60).
At the constitutional convention a number of bills were introduced to cause the
University to focus on agricultural training and other practical pursuits, and to provide for
direct election of all Regents. Six days before the convention adjourned an amendment
was proposed that memorialized the status of the Regents and the University as a public
trust under the Organic Act.
It included language insuring that no person would be
excluded from the University on account of their sex, and incorporated language that
provided the University remarkable insulation, subject only to “such legislative control as
may be necessary to insure compliance with the terms of its endowment and the proper
investment of and security of its funds.8
The amendment passed, and thus the
University’s autonomous status was established in the constitution.
As a consequence of the codification of the University’s autonomous status at the
1879 convention, subsequent changes in the structure of University governance have
required constitutional amendments.
Over the years there have been four significant
In 1918 two additional ex-officio Regents were added.
In 1970 the
legislature passed, and the electorate ratified, a constitutional amendment requiring that
Regents’ meetings be open to the public.9 In 1972 the constitution was amended by a
statewide ballot initiative, Measure 5, which required that the governor’s nominations to
the Board of Regents be ratified by a majority vote of the state senate Rules committee
for consideration by the full senate (Scully, 1987).
In 1974 a number of significant changes were introduced.
Regents’ terms were
reduced from 16 years to 12. In a nod to the change in the state’s political economy the
ex-officio seats provided to the president of the State Board of Agriculture and the
president of the Mechanics Institute of San Francisco were deleted, and an ex-officio seat
for the vice-president of the University’s alumni association was added.
significantly, the number of appointed Board seats was increased from 16 to 18, and the
governor was required to consult with an advisory board prior to making nomination for
the Board of Regents.
The advisory board consists of the legislative leadership and 6
members of the public appointed to four year terms by that leadership, and
representatives of students, alumni and faculty. The current Board consists of 26
members, 18 appointed, 7 ex-officio, and one student Regent appointed by the Board.
California Constitution Article IX, section IX
Regents meetings are divided into open and closed sessions. Closed session items include all
labor negotiations, personnel contracting and matters of national security.
The 1974 amendment also added language stating that the appointed Regents be
“broadly reflective of the economic, cultural, and social diversity of the state, including
ethnic minorities and women.”10
In 1976 the constitutional language of 1879 insuring
that women would not be excluded from the University was amended to read, “no person
shall be debarred admission to any department of the university on account of race,
religion, ethnic heritage or sex.”11
The Board as a representative body
Despite the constitutional commitment that the University itself should be open to
members of the working class and to women, it is not clear that the University’s
governing body, the Board of Regents has been constructed over time with an equally
egalitarian approach.
For this study we have collected data from the University of
California Bancroft Archives, records from the State of California Senate Rules
Committee, as well as other published research, to document the historical composition
of the Regents of the University of California.
The Historical Composition of the UC Regents
As part of the data collection for this research we recorded the profession of
regents appointed over the period 1868-1997.12 This tally encompassed 157 appointed
The range of occupations has been sufficiently narrow that all 157 appointees
could be sorted into fifteen categories.13 Of these, the largest by far was “lawyer”, with
51 appointed Regents in that category. The next most frequent category was banker, with
22 appointed Regents, followed by “Business Executive”14 with 16, and then the
California Constitution, Article IX Revision, 1974.
California Constitution, Article IX, sec f.
This tabulation includes Regents appointed by the Governor, and Regents appointed by the
Board itself, but not Ex-Officio Regents, who gained their seats as a result of being elected to various State
Given the changing nature of occupational descriptors over time, we have tried to standardize
these categories with contemporary captions. Although this does introduce a degree of subjectivity into the
sorting of individuals, we believe this tally presents an accurate, if not perfect, depiction of the occupational
status of Regents over time.
Given the detailed descriptions in the archival data, this category reflects the equivalent of CEO
in contemporary terms.
principals of mining and utility companies, with 14 appointments.
The categories with
the smallest memberships were “union leader” with three appointments, and “Military
officer”, “public administrator,” and “Farmer” with two appointments each.
University of California Appointed Regents: 1870 – 1998
Profession or occupation
Business executive
Power and mining investor
Civic leaders and philanthropist
Real estate investor
Medical doctor
Transportation investor
Union leader
Public Administration
Source: California State Senate Rules Committee Archives
As revealing as these categories are they do not begin to demonstrate the elite
nature of appointments to the University of California Regents, a Board that throughout
its history has resembled a “Who’s Who” of California’s economic and political elite.
The names of appointed Regents are on buildings and businesses and monuments
throughout the state. The “Bankers” have included A.P. Giannini, director of the Bank of
America, William H. Crocker, president of Crocker Bank and Pacific Telephone, as well
as I.W. Hellman, a principal of Wells Fargo Bank.
The “transportation executives”
included Leland Stanford and William Roth, director of the Matson Navigation
Company, among the “Civic Leaders,” were Phoebe Hearst, mother of William Randolph
Hearst, and Dorothy Chandler, director of the Times-Mirror Corporation. The business
executives included Edward Carter, president of the Broadway-Hale Stores Inc., and
Norton Simon, industrialist and renowned art collector, while the military men included
Admiral Chester Nimitz. While not all appointed Regents have represented that level of
wealth and power, of the 157 appointed Regents in this data set, fewer than half a dozen
could be described as “working class.” Only fourteen of these appointed Regents were
In addition to the wealth and status of the Board, it also has a remarkably “closely
held” character. That is, of the 157 appointed Regents, many have close family, business
and personal connections to earlier Regents, as in the case of the Hearst family which has
had some half dozen family members and associates on the Board (Schwartz, 1998). A
small number of businesses, such as particular law firms, banks and utility companies
have also served as disproportionate sources of Regents over the years.
The Contemporary Board
The creation of the contemporary Board of Regents is governed by significantly
different advisories and constraints than earlier in its history, as a result of the 1974 ballot
initiative that required Senate confirmation of gubernatorial appointments to the Board
and that the Board reflect the ethnic and gender composition of the state of California.
However, these shifts have done little to shift the socioeconomic or gender imbalances on
the Board. Of the 18 appointees on the Board in 1998, only 4 were women.
The Board has become significantly more ethnically and racially diverse in the
past twenty-five years.
Overwhelmingly white in its first 100 years, the current Board
counts among the appointed membership African American, Japanese American,
Hispanic, and ethnic Chinese Regents.
The contemporary Board is also quite wealthy.
The median wealth15 of the 18
appointed Regents on the board in 1991 was estimated at nearly three quarters of a
million dollars, as compared to a median family wealth in the United States at that time
of about forty-six thousand dollars (Lapin, 1992; Schwartz, 1991). The individual wealth
of many of the Regents in that study may actually have been significantly higher than
estimated, as the public reporting requirement for some categories of Regents’ personal
investments did not require detail beyond “over $100,000 dollars.” The estimates also did
not include such assets as savings accounts, holdings of diversified mutual funds,
government bonds or personal residences (Schwartz, 1991).
Appointed Regents have
often used some portion of their wealth to make contributions to the Governors who
appointed them, and to the Governor’s political party and causes. A number of appointed
Regents have been leaders of their political parties at the state and national level (Pusser,
forthcoming; Schrag, 1998).
The Appointment and Confirmation Dynamic
Perhaps the single most predictable trait of a member of the UC Board of Regents
has been that an appointee is a member of the Governor’s political party, and most likely
an individual with close political and financial connections to the Governor.
One Regent who requested anonymity described the nomination process this way:
Towards the end of October the governor called me. He said, ‘I’m calling
to ask a favor.’ I said, ‘absolutely sir if I can do it I’ll be happy to.’ He
said, ‘well I’d like for you to sit on the Board of Regents.’ I said, ‘the
Board of Regents?’ I said, ‘are you sure that’s what you want me to do,
governor?’ He said, ‘Oh, I think it would be good for you and it would be
good for the board. You would be a breath of fresh air, a different
perspective.’ He said, ‘just say yes and I’ll have (an aide) tell you all about
it.’ So I said, ‘all right, if you think I can do it and that’s what you want me
to do.’ I had no idea who the members of the board were. I had no idea
what their responsibilities were. Later I found out there had been many
people who wanted to be appointed, who had submitted applications. So,
having known the governor and I know governors have always done this,
those applications don’t mean a whole lot to the governor, because people
get appointed because of their relationship with the governor. 16
In some cases the Regents have had ties to interests that even a governor cannot resist.
University of California Professor Emeritus Charles Schwartz offered this reflection on
the re-appointment of former Regent Edward Carter, in an interview for this research:
Edward Carter was the epitome of your big business man, a political player
on a statewide level who sat on the boards of directors of major corporations
across the country. AT&T, Lockheed, things of that sort. This is a big
player. I remember with chagrin when Jerry Brown was governor, he
In that study “wealth” was defined as “total household assets.”
Interview, March 27, 1998.
reappointed Edward Carter to the Board. Edward Carter hated Jerry Brown
and frustrated everything he could do. So why did Jerry Brown reappoint
him? He couldn’t afford not to.17
In 1998 all but one of the 18 appointed Regents on the Board was a member of
the Republican party.
This contemporary polarization is attributable in part to the
historically partisan control of the governorship in California. For the past sixteen years
the governorship has been held by Republicans, and only three Democrats have been
elected governor in this century. The California State Senate on the other hand has been
controlled by Democrats for virtually the entire period since the Senate was granted the
right to reject gubernatorial nominees to the Board.
There is a considerable body of research on the political dynamics of
appointments to governing boards, judicial positions and regulatory agencies (Hammond
and Hill, 1993; McCubbins, Noll, and Weingast, 1987; Poole and Rosenthal, 1987). This
research puts forward two primary models that describe political responses to
appointments, the deference model and the agenda control model (Hammond and Hill,
1993). The deference model prevails in cases where confirming bodies have the ex post
power to constrain the efforts of board members, or shape board composition.
those conditions the confirming bodies will general defer to the wishes of the appointing
agent. This is usually the case for nominees to positions with short terms or where board
members have little policy discretion or salience.
The agenda control model prevails in
those cases where nominees will have long terms, considerable independence, or
significant policy authority (nominations to the United States Supreme Court are perhaps
the prime example) the confirming bodies are unlikely to defer to the appointing agent.
Contemporary UC Regents are nominated for twelve-year terms by the
Governor18 and those nominations are voted on by the State Senate after the nominees
have served a year on the Board.
Once confirmed, UC Regents possess considerable
constitutional autonomy from the California legislature.
Regents govern over one of the
largest cohorts of public employees in the state, control enormously valuable public
assets, and receive over two billion dollars annually in state funding. Given the economic
Interview with Schwartz, July 24, 1998.
and political salience of the University it would appear that the agenda control model
should prevail over the confirmation dynamic for the Board of Regents. However, in the
twenty five-year period after the Sate Senate was empowered to reject Gubernatorial
nominations to the Board (1972-1997) the Senate rejected only two of the more than forty
nominations put forward (Pusser, forthcoming).
Nor is it clear that nominees possessed such commendable expertise in higher
education that even a partisan Senate majority would yield in the spirit of responsible
In most of the confirmation hearings reviewed for this research there was
little discussion.
Each nominee was asked the same opening question: “What are your
qualifications for this position?”
Most cited business experience, or membership in
service organizations or civic groups.
Few had ever served on any sort of education
governing board, only one on a postsecondary board.
Some seemed not only to have
little experience with higher education, they didn’t seem to think it would matter to the
The response of one Regent nominee, Leo Kolligian, was representative of
the general approach of nominees:
MR. KOLLIGIAN: Well, I’m a Boalt Hall Law School graduate of the
University of California, and I’ve been practicing in Fresno for, oh,
something over 40 years. I feel I’m qualified because I’ve been involved in
so many different business experiences and have had the opportunity to get
into land development and go into different--different fields of law as well
as law itself. I feel that I’m from the Valley. I am Armenian, but--and, I
should say, and I do feel that there’s a need for a representative on the
Board from that area for geographical reasons.
SENATOR PETRIS: Anything else? Anything about education?
The nominee was unanimously confirmed by the Senate Rules Committee.
The Case of UNAM
In an attempt to shed light over the nature of university governance at the UNAM
and to identify elites and dominant groups within the University, we conducted a set of
The Governor is required by statute to consult with an advisory board before submitting a
nomination to the Board of Regents.
California Senate Rules Committee Hearing Transcript, June 1,1986, page 4)
interviews with key University actors.20
During these interviews we followed a
reputational method for identification of elites.
When asked to identify the most
powerful and relevant individuals in University life, most of the respondents specifically
mentioned that the majority members of the Governing board should be included in such
a list.21
In addition to this, we drew data on the governing board at UNAM from a
database on University rectors, deans, members of the board and other officials
(Ordorika, ).
This database provides information on the academic and political
trajectories of these key actors at UNAM.
The governing board at UNAM
The University
The Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) is the largest and most
important institution in Mexico.
In 1998 the UNAM had over 270,000 students
(approximately 17,000 graduate, 145,000 undergraduate, 3,500 vocational and 104,000
baccalaureate; 30,000 teachers and researchers and more than 31,000 administrative and
manual workers (UNAM, 1998). It had 13 faculties, 4 schools, 5 multi-disciplinary units,
24 research institutes and 13 research centers, and 14 baccalaureate level schools (5
colleges of sciences and humanities and 9 preparatory schools). The UNAM has 8% of
the national enrollment at the undergraduate level and 14% at graduate level. According
to Conacyt’s last census on scientific production from 1984, this institution alone
produced approximately 32% of the research in the nation (considering basic research in
all areas) with 40.00% in biology, 62.5% in chemistry, 45% in mathematics, 75% in earth
sciences, 77% in astronomy, 33% in communications, electronics and aeronautics, 43%
in political science, 24% in economy, 28 % in history, 61% in philosophy, 57% in
These interviews included the current rector Francisco Barnés and former rector Guillermo
Soberón; former members of the Governing board Henrique González Casanova, Jesús Aguirre Cárdenas
and Luis Villoro; former university officials Jorge Madrazo and Javier Jiménez Espriú; former University
Council faculty members Luis de la Peña and Manuel Peimbert; Eleazer Morales, and Jorge del Valle,
founders and leaders of SPAUNAM (the faculty union); Evaristo Perez Arreola staff union (STUNAM)
leader; former student leaders Gilberto Guevara, Salvador Martínez, and Carlos Imaz; and student leader
Inti Muñoz. These interviews were conducted by Imanol Ordorika between june 1997 and february 1998.
information technology, and 33% in sociology (Martínez Della Rocca and Ordorika
Sacristán, 1993).
Historical Antecedents
The antecedents of the UNAM can be traced to the foundation of the Real y
Pontificia Univeridad de México in 1533 by the Spanish colonizers. The university was
reestablished in its modern form as Universidad Nacional de México in 1910. Since then
the National University has undergone significant changes in its governance structure and
legal status.
The law that created the National University in 1910 established the Minister of
Instruction as the chief of the university, with a rector and a university council in charge
of the institution.
The power to shape the university was divided, with the rector
appointed by the president, and the government empowered to add new schools.
Academic program reforms had to be submitted by the council to the Ministry of
Instruction for final approval.
The same Ministry supervised major financial operations
with the patrimony.22
In 1929 the University was granted limited autonomy from the government after a
student strike.
The essential elements of that legislation were: a) the University council
would appoint the rector from a group of three candidates proposed by the president; b)
the president had the right to veto resolutions and policies set by the university; c) the
rector had to provide an annual report to the Federal Congress and the Ministry of
Education; d) the University depended on a Federal subsidy and did not have the right to
its own patrimony; and e) the President was entitled to oversee the University budget.
The Organic Law of 1929 put an end to the student movement but the student’s demands
for participation were not fully satisfied.23
with the new regulations.
A new rector was designated in accordance
The university now became the Universidad Nacional
Autónoma de México (UNAM).
Ley Constitutiva de la Universidad Nacional de México (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de
México, 1985pp. 35-43).
The Student Strike Directory objected many of the articles in the new law. The students
demanded more institutional autonomy and participation rights (in Pinto Mazal, 1974, p. 151-161).
The 1929 Organic Law was only in force for four years. In 1933 the National
University was profoundly divided by a national debate over socialist education.
Federal Government addressed the crisis with new legislation that granted full autonomy
to the University.
Congress unanimously approved a new law that deprived the
University of its designation as a national institution due to its lack of commitment to the
State’s popular education projects.
The new law24 established that: a) the University
Council would be the highest authority in the University, and would appoint the rector
and directors of schools, faculties and research institutes; c) the University Council would
define the composition and rules of the Academias de Estudiantes y Profesores (Student
and Faculty Boards); and d), the law established the right of the University to its own
patrimony and to a unique donation after which the Federal Government would provide
no additional subsidy.
From 1933 to 1944, the University functioned under this Organic Law and three
different statutes approved by the University Council in 1934, 1936 and 1938.
Essentially the three statutes established that faculty and students would be equally
represented in the Academias and University Council. The rector, deans and directors
were elected through direct vote in the University Council and could be revoked at any
The creation of the governing board
In 1944, another student strike created a new crisis in the University.
institution was polarized into two factions organized around the University Council and
the University Directory.
Both groups appointed competing interim rectors.
Avila Camacho intervened and called for the formation of a provisional board constituted
by former rectors of the university who would in turn elect a new rector.
The provisional
board appointed Alfonso Caso (Antonio Caso’s brother) as rector.
The board also
established provisional bases for the operation of the university, the reorganization of the
University Council and the creation of an independent treasury.
The new University
Council was mandated to discuss and adopt a new university statute before December
In the Ley Orgánica de la Universidad Autónoma de México. 19 de octubre de 1933 (México,
Congreso and Diputados, 1933).
31st, 1945.
In the reorganized University Council students and faculty no longer had
The rector was to appoint a secretary general and new directors for all the
schools, faculties and institutes.25
Following the directives set by the provisional board, Rector Caso appointed a
secretary general and 25 directors. The Rector and his appointees constituted almost half
of the University Council.
There were 15 faculty and 15 students elected, each group
constituting only one fourth of the governing body.
In October 1944 the University
Council was installed. It became a constitutive legislative body. Caso went beyond his
mandate from the former rectors to reform the university statute and prepared to legislate
a proposal for a new Organic Law that could eventually be approved by Congress. Caso
formed an ad-hoc committee to present a draft of the new Organic Law to the constitutive
University Council.
He argued in that draft that the problems of the university were
caused by a permanent clash between political and technical forms of organization:
As political authorities University leaders have always had a dual role; on
the one hand they require the popular support of groups, and on the other
hand, they must possess the character of technical authorities that need to
solve teaching and research problems from a purely objective point of view.
The struggle between these political and technical roles has prevented the
University from realizing its objectives, and indisputably has been
decreasing the quality of teachers, their teaching, their programs, and
consequently, the preparation of students (Caso in González Oropeza, 1980,
p. 64).
Caso argued that the university was a pluralist institution, a shared community
with a common culture. According to Caso, there were no antagonisms between faculty
and students, and ideological differences should not create adversaries within the
In his view the community could govern the institution based on technical,
rather than political, criteria (González Oropeza, 1980). The key element for Caso’s “depoliticization” of the University would be the creation of a neutral governing body in
charge of the appointment of deans and rectors, and that would serve as a higher authority
in University disputes.
Along these lines Caso presented a proposal to change the
Organic Law.. The most salient features of the proposal were:
From the “Bases aprobadas por la junta de ex-rectores de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de
México para el Gobierno Provisional de la Institución (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Comisión
Técnica de Estudios y Proyectos Legislativos, 1977, tomo I, pp. 359-361)
1. The University authorities would constitute a newly created Junta de Gobierno
(Governing board), the University Council, the Rector, the Patronato (Trustees), the
directors of faculties, schools and institutes; and the Consejos Técnicos (Technical
Councils) which replaced the Academias of schools and faculties.
2. The composition of these Consejos and the University Council was in accord with the
provisional bases set by the former rectors. Parity between faculty and students in these
bodies was terminated. The authority of these collegial bodies was reduced vis a vis
the directors and the rector (Jiménez Rueda, 1955, p. 238).
3. The Patronato would be an independent body in charge of the administration of the
university endowment.
4. The Junta de Gobierno would be responsible for the appointment of directors (selected
from sets of three proposed by the rector), and the designation of the rector. The Junta
would also intervene in the case of a conflict between authorities and appoint the
members of the Patronato (trustees).
Student representatives to the Council opposed the proposal because of the
reduction in the weight of student representation.
Students also argued against the
creation of a governing board that would reduce the Council to a secondary role and end
faculty and student participation in the appointment of university authorities.26
most of the student representatives abandoned the Constituent University Council in
protest over the proposal. 27
The Role of the Governing board
Early perceptions of the role of the proposed governing board differed somewhat.
Some supporters viewed the new governing body as “the power organism of the
functions of the Institution.”28
Others thought of the new body as “out of the way of
every conflict, of every struggle, of every interest, be it academic, political or
confessional.”29 While most of the members of the Council agreed that the board should
Acta de la Sesión del Consejo Universitario Constituyente, November 29th, 1944 (in González
Oropeza, 1980, p. 106)
Acta de la Sesión del Consejo Universitario Constituyente, December 15th, 1944 (p. 209).
Martinez Baez, faculty representative of the School of Law, during the December 8th, 1944
session of the Constitutive University Council (in González Oropeza, 1980, p. 151).
Mario Sousa, faculty representative of the School of Economics, during the December 8th, 1944
session of the Constitutive University Council (in González Oropeza, 1980, p. 146).
not be a representative body,30 there was general agreement with the idea that the Board
should have a diversity of ideological and disciplinary perspectives.31
The Constitutive
Council discussed extensively various electoral arrangements that would guarantee this
According to the new Organic Law and the corresponding University Statute
(approved by the Constitutive Council in March of 1945) the Board was to be composed
of 15 members designated by the Constitutive Council.
After five years, the University
Council could substitute one member each year32 as well as fill vacancies caused by death
or a mandatory age limit.
The Board itself would fill the vacancies created by
Congress approved the proposal of the Constitutive Council and the new Organic
Law was enacted on January 6th, 1945. The new governing structure of the university
was complete. The University Council, composed of appointed directors (50%), as well
as elected student and faculty representatives (25% each), would appoint long term
members to the Governing board.
The Board would appoint the rector who, in turn
would be the president of the University Council. The rector would play a major role in
the appointment of directors by proposing a set of three candidates to the Governing
board. The Governing board would then designate directors from the rector’s proposal,
and those directors would constitute the majority of the University Council.
There was general agreement around the idea that the new governing structure,
and particularly the Board, would “solve serious conflicts within the University… [it
would]… put an end to politics”33 within the Institution,
“technical” nature of university governance.
and it would guarantee the
The Governing board would preserve
institutional autonomy by preventing the government and political interests from
Mario Sousa and Martínez Baez during the December 8th, 1944 session of the Constitutive
University Council (in González Oropeza, 1980, pp. 147 and 151 respectively).
Calderón Caso, faculty representative from the School of Dentistry and Antonio Caso, rector,
during the December 8th, 1944 session of the Constitutive University Council (in González Oropeza, 1980, pp.
156 and 157 respectively).
The order of these substitutions would be established by draw. After all the original members
had been substituted, the University Council would replace the most senior member of the board each year
González Guzmán, director of the School of Medicine, during the December 14th, 1944 session
of the Constitutive University Council (in González Oropeza, 1980, p. 190).
intervening and exercising any influence in the appointment of the university rector and
the directors of schools, faculties and institutes.34
Historical composition of the Board (1945-1997)
The Constitutive Council elected the first governing board of the UNAM on
January 29th, 1945. Each member of the Council was able to vote for eight of the fifteen
members in an attempt to give some representation to minorities, though over time the
board has not achieved significant diversity in terms of disciplines, university groups,
ideology, or gender.
This lack of diversity can be analyzed along disciplinary, political,
and gender lines.
Professions and Disciplines
From January 1945 to January 1998, the Governing board at UNAM has had 111
members. In a study of the composition of the Board since 1945 we aggregated several
disciplines and professional groups into broad disciplinary areas and computed the
number of members and days served to assess the relative weight of each group on the
Governing board. Our study shows that three groups have dominated the Board. These
groups have been medicine with 22%, law with 19%, and engineering/chemical
engineering with 15%.
The rest of the membership has been divided between the
humanities with 10%, the exact sciences with 9%, architecture with 6%, business
administration with 5%, the social sciences with 4%, and economics with 4%.35
professional groups within the board have carried a much larger weight than the
academic disciplines.
The following table shows the composition according to
disciplinary areas for three distinct periods.
Alfonso Caso, rector, during the December 14th, 1944 session of the Constitutive University
Council (in González Oropeza, 1980, p. 193).
The data for each of the disciplines is: Medicine (19.19%), Law (19.16%), and Engineering
(8.39%), Chemical Engineering (6.60%), Physics (6.37%), History (6.14%), Architecture (6.03%),
Business Administration (5.76%), Economics (4.27%), Philosophy (3.51%), Sociology (2.63%),
Biomedicine (2.41), Mathematics (2.18%), Psychology (1.43%), Veterinary (1.08%), Astronomy (1.06%),
Literature (0.83%), and Communication Sciences (0.68%).
Governing board members by academic discipline 1945–1997
(years on the governing board)
Social Sciences
Business Administration.
Medical and Biological sciences
73 22.12%
115 34.85%
Exact Sciences
Engineering and Chemistry
41 12.42%
Total member years on the board
YOGB= years on the governing board
Source: University Biographies (UNAM)
From 1945 to 1997, 29 members of the board (27%)36 had previously been high–
level government officials.
Nine members (8.5%) occupied a government post (from
director general to minister) at the same time that they were part of the Junta. At least
seven members of the Board (6.5%) occupied a position in the federal government after
leaving this body.
Eight board members held the post of government ministers, two of
which did so while serving their term in the Junta.
Professional groups have traditionally been linked to the Federal Government.
All of the economists and over seventy-five percent of the lawyers have occupied
government postings at the levels of secretary, under–secretary, director general, judge,
or supreme–court justice.
Thirty–two percent of the members from the medical
profession have held postings in the secretary of health (secretaries and under–
They have exercised enormous influence on the leadership of major public
hospitals, particularly the Instituto Nacional de Cardiología (Cardiology Institute) and the
These calculations are based on 107 individuals that occupied 111 positions in the Governing
board given the fact that four of these individuals were re-appointed to this body.
Instituto Nacional de Nutrición
(Nutrition Institute).
Two members of the Board
(Chávez and Zubirán) founded these institutions.
It has also been argued that ICA (Associated Civil Engineers) one of the largest
private corporations in Mexico, has exercised a significant influence on the board through
the representatives on the Board from the engineering profession.
We only found
information about membership in ICA for two governing board members (out of 10
Seven ICA members have also been public officials (i.e., secretary or
under–secretaries in the ministries of public works, communications and transportation,
or energy).
Chávez, Baz and Zubirán: The Doctores Dominate UNAM
The representation of the professional groups has been fairly concentrated,
particularly within the medical sector.
Doctors Gustavo Baz, Ignacio Chávez, and
Salvador Zubirán were all at some point directors of the School of Medicine, Rectors of
UNAM, and among the most powerful members of the Board. They have constituted a
closely-knit group in University and government politics since the early 1930’s. Baz and
Zubirán were personal physicians to Mexican presidents.
Seven other members of the
board had been direct subordinates of Chávez in Cardiología, the medical society, or the
school of medicine. Several others had been disciples and friends. This group was also
closely related to a number of lawyers and representatives of other professional groups
and disciplines by friendship, family, and political bonds.38
From the administration to the Board
Six former university officials appointed by Rector Chávez between 1961 and
1966 came to be part of the Governing board, as did eight directors of schools and
This may be due to the lack of sufficient information on the engineering group.
Four of Chavez’s high school friends later became members of the governing board. These
were Antonio and Manuel Martínez Baez, Salvador Gutiérrez Herrejón, and Gabino Fraga (Romo Medrano,
1997, p. 47). Chávez, Zubirán and Baz became friends while they were students in the School of Medicine, a
fourth friend from that period, González Ayala, would also be director of that School and member of the
Governing board (pp. 61,62). There were some family ties with Trinidad Garcia (Chavez’s daughter and
Garcias’ son were married) (p. 135). .Chavez’s own son, Ignacio Chávez Rivera, was part of the Governing
board from 1985 to 1997.
institutes who were designated to the Board during the time when Chavez was at the head
of the UNAM. One more Chavez protege, Dr. Guillermo Soberón, later became a rector
at UNAM.
In keeping with the “revolving door” character of leadership at UNAM, eight
former rectors also became part of the Governing board. Four of them had been part of
the group of former Rectors that gave birth to the new Organic Law. Another was former
Rector Caso himself.
One former member of the Board, Dr. Ignacio Chavez, resigned
from the board in 1959 to become rector in 1961.39
Eight former directors of schools and institutes appointed by Caso in 1944, and
eight faculty representatives who were also part of the Constitutive Council in that year,
eventually became part of the Governing board.
None of the former student
representatives or other dissenting voices, such as that of Dr. Lucio Mendieta y Nuñez
(director of the Social Research Institute), ever became part of this body.40
Political Affiliation: Right, or Right of Center
Most members of the Governing board at UNAM never publicly state any
Biographies, 11 members of the Junta are identified as members of the PRI through
explicit party membership, participation in that party’s advisory board (IEPES), or having
served in the national Congress or Senate as PRI representatives. A few others have not
been officially recorded as members of the PRI although they have participated in this
party’s internal political processes.
This is the case for board member García Ramirez
and Rector Soberón himself, who competed for the PRI presidential nomination in 1987.
At least 45 members of the Board have been appointed government officials
under PRI administrations, reflecting a clear political and ideological orientation of the
Junta de Gobierno..
Given the authoritarian characteristics of the Mexican political
regime, it is safe to assume that upper–level government officials accept and generally
The Organic Law establishes that two years must have passed after abandoning the board, in
order for any former member of this body to be appointed rector or director.
This will be evident through a comparison of the composition of the Constitutive University
Congress (González Oropeza, 1980, pp. 99-103) and the list of Board members compiled by Imanol Ordorika
concur with the dictates of the nation’s president, who in turn is the leader of the official
party Participation in high levels of public office implied, at least until 1982, ideological
conformity with the president and the government party.
Alternative political perspectives have had a much more limited presence on the
governing council.
Four members of the Board were founders of the right–wing party
Acción Nacional.41
It is possible that there have been more adherents to that political
position (a moderate Catholic conservatism) that have participated on the Board, but
there is no available information to confirm this.42
Progressive political trends at the University have rarely been represented on the
Governing board.
Some argue that only two members (Villoro and López Cámara),43
appointed by Rector González Casanova after the 1968 student movement, could be
considered as representatives of the university left. At least four well-known and highly
regarded scholars nominated by the left were rejected by the University Council.44
Current Rector Barnés agrees that the Junta is a conservative body and explains
that the absence of progressives in this body is due to the fact that:
Proposals made by the Rector carry a larger weight than those that emerge
[from other actors] for many reasons. The Rector’s proposal is usually
more conservative than any of the other proposals, I absolutely agree.
There is inertia in this process that although it provides the system with
great stability, it also implies a slightly slower transformation in this
collegial body’s vision…45
This data has been based on political biographies collected by Roderic Ai Camp (1995).
Del Valle describes that in most University administrations and in the Governing board there is
always a strong presence by moderate catholic groups (Interview with Del Valle, 1997).
López Cámara however, became a member of the Confederación Nacional de Organizaciones
Populares, a corporatist branch of the PRI.
In 1975, Rolando Cordera, faculty representative of the school of economics proposed Dr. Elí de
Gortari’s candidacy for the Governing board. The University council voted for the official candidate, Lic.
Roberto Alatorre Padilla (Alarcón, 1979). In 1981, Dr. Manuel Peimbert, faculty representative of the
school of sciences, proposed Dr. Juan Manuel Lozano. Marcos Mazzari, was presented by the directors of
the school and the institute of engineering (Alarcón, 1985). The latter was elected. In 1986, a collective of
student and faculty representatives put forward the candidacy of Carlos Tello. The Rector’s candidate,
Graciela Rodriguez, was elected (Acta de la Sesión del Consejo, 30 de julio de 1986). In 1993, Dr. Sergio
Fernandez was supported by thousands of student and faculty signatures. The Rector’s candidate, Dr.
Sergio García Ramirez, was elected by the smallest margin and at a high cost in legitimacy for him and the
university administration (Acta de la Sesión del Consejo Universitario, 15 de diciembre de 1993).
(Interview with Barnés, 1998).
Board member Villoro’s recollection of the composition of the Junta de Gobierno
between 1972 and 1984 was quite different.46
That period encompassed two distinct
political epochs: the González Casanova and the Soberón administrations.
According to
Villoro’s description, during that time the Board had three types of members. The first
group was “the scientists.” The members of the “scientists” were:
generally from the area of natural and exact sciences. They had a scientific
orientation and a liberal stance, in the American sense. Usually they had
very limited background and paid little attention to political and social
issues. On most occasions, they felt that there was nothing political about
their decisions. They represented between 40% and 50% of the Board.
Villoro called the second group los obedientes al poder (those obedient to power).
These are the ones that,
received political directives from various sources; internal, external, or the
federal government. They had to be very careful in the way they filtered
these directives. Among this group, those that really have political contacts
are relatively few, usually just two or three. The rest of the obedient group
follows along.
Villoro stated that during his time on the Board, there was a very marginal group
on the left.
According to his own description, only he and López Cámara could be
considered part of the left.
Disciplinary composition
An analysis of the disciplinary affiliations members of the Board during the
period under study shows a more varied picture. Engineering and chemistry share 21.6%
of this body.
Medicine, veterinary and biomedical sciences represent 16.2%.
physical and mathematical sciences reached 16.2%. The humanities held 13.5% and law
10.8% of the Junta. Finally, the business school had 8.1% and architecture 5.4% of this
Only nine individuals can be clearly identified as natural and exact scientists.
Villoro might have considered some engineers, chemists, and physicians as part of the
scientists’ group.
The following quotations are part of the author’s interview with Luis Villoro (Interview with
An All-Boys Club
Women represented between 15 to 20% of total enrollment of the UNAM from
1945 to 1960.47 It increased to almost 35% in 197648 and to about 50% in 1979. In spite
of this, in 53 years, the Governing board has only included four women (two
representatives of the humanities, one of the social sciences and one of the exact
sciences). The first woman to become part of the board was appointed in 1976.
Demands for Reform
Throughout its history the Governing board has been a site of conflict.
Alfonso Caso resigned from the rectorship in 1945, the Governing board appointed
Fernandez MacGregor. He resigned a year later. Zubirán was made Rector by the Board
in 1947,
and resigned in 1948, a casualty of student protests against tuition increases.
Students demanded the termination of the Governing board, and after a “community
consultation” that lasted fifty days, the Board required President Aleman’s help in order
to appoint Luis Garrido as new rector of the UNAM. Further student protests against the
Governing board took place in 1961 and 1965 when Ignacio Chávez was appointed and
re-appointed rector. Chávez was ousted from the University by a new student movement
in the School of Law in 1966. At the same time students from other faculties, grouped
around the University Student Council, demanded the democratization of the governing
structure and again requested the abolition of the Governing board.
During the 1968 student movement the Governing board closed ranks with faculty
and students against the government by refusing to accept Rector Barros Sierra’s
From 1973 forward, almost every appointment of a rector has been
There have also been many conflicts over the designation of directors in
faculties and schools. In every local and university-wide student movement, the demand
for the eradication of the Governing board has played an important role.
From UNAM, Cuadros Estadísticos 1929-1979.
Governing Boards in Crisis
The past decade has witnessed fundamental governance crises at each of the
universities in this study.
The contest over affirmative action policy at the University of
California in 1994-95 and the struggle at UNAM over tuition and autonomy in 1999
which had not been resolved at the time of this writing, produced levels of conflict and
dissension that had not been seen in over a quarter of a century.
In each case the
governing boards of the respective institutions were at the center of the crisis, and a brief
analysis of the actions of the boards in these episodes offers a window into the utility of
political theory for understanding contemporary higher education governance, and the
nature of the respective governing boards under study.
The UC contest over affirmative action
In July of 1995, in the culmination of twelve months of rising organizational and
political economic conflict, the University of California (UC) Board of Regents voted 1410 to end race and gender preferences in University admissions, and 15-10 to do so for
employment and contracting.
The Regents' votes marked an historic reversal of nearly
thirty years of UC affirmative action efforts, and UC became the first public university in
America to eliminate the use of race and gender in admissions and employment (Pusser,
forthcoming; Schrag, 1998).
The fall of affirmative action at UC challenges a number of prevailing
understandings of the nature of higher education governance.
A broad array of
institutional factions had urged the Regents to preserve UC’s existing policies on
affirmative action.
Supporters included the President of the system, the University
Provost, all nine Chancellors, representatives of the nine campus Academic Senates,
representatives of all nine UC student associations, representatives of the system’s major
staff organizations, representatives of the University alumni association, and the faculty
representatives to the Board of Regents. There was also considerable support for UC’s
affirmative action policies beyond the campus borders.
The Clinton administration lent
considerable support, as did the California State Senate and Assembly Democratic
caucuses and a number of elected state officials. They were joined by a significant cohort
of state and national organizations and interest groups.
Powerful political actors were also arrayed in pursuit of an end to affirmative
action at UC, including California Governor Pete Wilson, the State Assembly and Senate
Republican caucuses, several candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination
in 1996, and a number of conservative legal foundations and interest groups.
nearly a year of public deliberation, a barrage of state and national attention directed at
the Regents’ deliberations, and the active involvement of the University’s administrative
leadership in the contest, the outcome came as a profound shock to a number institutional
leaders at UC and across the country (Schrag, 1998).
The UC contest over affirmative action points at once to the concentration of
power in the governing board itself, and the strong influence of external political
processes on the policy-making process. It also points to some essential limitations of a
number of the models put forward for understanding the governance process. While the
bureaucracy” at UC both rallied in support of affirmative action, neither institutional
norms nor bureaucratic expertise were sufficient to preserve UC affirmative action.
Throughout the contest the University President and others invoked (to little avail) such
arrangements that had prevailed in the University for nearly one hundred years (Karabel,
The affirmative action crisis also demonstrated the limits of interest articulation as
a governance mechanism. The University administration’s efforts to build consensus and
achieve compromise were continually thwarted by the presidential ambitions of a
powerful state governor and his allies on the Board of Regents (Schrag, 1998).
Regent William Bagley’s remarks in an interview conducted for this study summed up
the feeling of a number of Regents on the power of the Governor:
Had the Governor not been involved, we would have never passed the
resolution (banning affirmative action). The Governor got involved because
he was running for president. The Governor used my university as a forum
to run for president.49
Interview with Regent William T. Bagley, June 1, 1998, San Francisco, California
This research suggests that while collegial, bureaucratic, symbolic and interestarticulation models are useful in the study of governance, once a critical level of contest
is reached, by themselves they are not sufficient to explain governing board dynamics.
The UC affirmative action crisis points to the utility of attention to the positive
theory of institutions and State theoretical perspectives for understanding public higher
education governance. The long term process of “stacking” the Board with close allies of
the Governor, the use of the UC contest as part of broader state and national contests for
political control, and the intervention of various political and economic interest groups in
the contest were all apparent in the data collected for this research.
Based on the analysis of documents and interview data from this case there was a
clear perception by a number of students, labor organizers, administrators, Regents and
members of the legislature that the affirmative action crisis could be seen as a contest
over the allocation of scarce public resources.
From this perspective UC was
conceptualized as a site where historical inequities could be redressed through the
allocation of access to traditionally underrepresented groups.
Governance was seen as
the central mechanism for those allocative decisions, and the issue of power in
governance, and on the governing board was located at the center of the conflict. Then
Chair of one of UC’s largest labor organizations, Cheryl Hagen raised the issue this way
in an address to the Regents on the day of their vote to eliminate affirmative action:
The reasons for racism and sexism are rooted in issues of economics,
political power, social order and psychological factors. The question has
never been whether or not minorities and women should be accepted and
treated as equals, it has been a question of whether or not power is to be
shared, and on what basis. The issue of power seeps through and permeates
all thought when it comes to any movement within our society. There is
nothing inherently wrong in the good-old-boy methodology. It works. It is
only problematic because for faculty positions and senior staff positions
within the University of California, women and minorities have not had the
same access.50
The contest over affirmative action at UC also suggests their are limits to the
utility of pluralist perspectives on organization and governance.
A number of actors
interviewed for this research noted the importance of resistance by actors with limited
Hagen, remarks to the Regents of the University of California, July 20, 1995.
voting power in the policy contest. Resistance efforts by students in favor of affirmative
action was seen as particularly effective. Student led protests against the composition of
the Regents and their voting patterns, organized student activism, and the students’
invitation to the Reverend Jesse Jackson to address the Board were seen as key strategic
responses in the contest.
Governance Crisis at UNAM
In 1986-87 the student movement lead by the Consejo Estudiantil Universitario
(University Student Council) demanded that the Junta be abolished. Students and faculty
demanded that a University Congress be organized in order to reform UNAM’s
governance structures. This Congress took place in 1990.51 At that time students pushed
for the approval of a new organic law, but the administration blocked student and faculty
efforts to institute reform.
According to a number of observers interviewed for this
research, the lack of legitimacy of UNAM’s governing structures was the source of new
student-adminsitration confrontations in 1992, 1995, and 1997.
This onging conflict has
lead to the longest strike in the history of UNAM, lasting six months at the time of the
writing of this article. Among other issues, students have again demanded the replacment
of the Junta with a more democratic and participatory governance organization for the
National University.
The governing board, as the ultimate residence of power, has contributed to each
of these confrontations, most notably through their selection of rectors. A succession of
rectors who have attempted to increase tuition, reduce student enrollments, and establish
efficiency driven financial policies designed to reduce costs and substitute private funds
provided by students for federal subisidies, have polarized various institutional and social
factions. In the student conflict of 1987, during the University Congress of 1990, and in
the current conflict (1999) the Junta has reacted strongly against student and faculty
democratization projects. It is difficult to explain the partisan role of the Junta in terms
of bureaucratic rationality or collegial relations within the institution.
After a six month
strike the Junta has rejected innumerable demands from actors within and outside of
UNAM for the removal of the rector. This situation can be better understood by looking
at the political connections between University governing elites and the State apparatus.
The Mexican government has pushed the University administration to increase tuition
and subsequently used the student strike in an attempt to discredit and attack the leftwing
presidential candidate Cárdenas.
Mexican President Zedillo and the governing board of
UNAM have sustained the rector at the head of UNAM despite institutional and social
protest. More recently, the rector and the Junta have asked the President to use security
forces to put an end to the strike at UNAM.
While final outcome of this movement
remains to be seen, it is increasingly clear that both the institutional policy contests that
are at the heart of the crisis, and the broader partisan conflict that has emerged from the
policy contests can be better understood as a part of broader political crisis in the State.
Findings and Implications
The analysis of these cases suggests that despite quite distinct national contexts,
the governing boards of the UNAM and the University of California evidence many
elements in common. The study of their compositions shows that historically there have
been few women or members of ethnic minority groups on the boards, and little diversity
in terms of economic class, ideological perspective, or professional affiliation.
constitutional revisions that have mandated broad societal representation and diversity on
The 1990 University Congress is the only recent participatory experience for University reform.
It was composed by 840 delegates. The democratic sectors gathered nearly 80% of the student
representatives and 60% of the faculty delegates. This faculty group was very important because it
included a vast majority of full time professors and researchers as opposed to the conservative faculty
group which was comprised essentially of part-time professors. The Congress was characterized by an
intense confrontation between important sectors of faculty and students against the Mexican government
and the University authorities. The end result was a stalemate on the most important issues, such as finance
and governance of higher education. Implementation of the most important agreements that the Congress
produced has been blocked by the bureaucracy and after more than two years these have not been put in
the boards, appointments continue to be alloted primarily to wealthy, politicallyconnected men.
In the case of the UNAM, the members of the governing board constitute a
significant portion of a university elite. This elite has alliances beyond the borders of the
University and maintains tight linkages with political groups within the State apparatus.
These linkages and interests may not initially seem to instrumentally challenge the
autonomy of the UNAM.
However, the findings of this research indicate that the
appointment of university authorities, and therefore the creation of administrative and
academic policies, are almost exclusively shaped by a homogeneous and relatively
limited set of actors connected to dominant groups within the State.
In the case of the University of California, the historical record indicates that the
economic, legal, and social elite of the state has shaped the Board of Regents since its
The evidence from the affirmative action crisis at UC suggests that powerful
economic and political interests also have considerable influence over the contemporary
university governance process.
These findings suggest that processes such as board
confirmation dynamics, which have previously garnered little attention in higher
education research, may have major implications for prevailing understandings of
While traditional frameworks for the study of higher education governance offer
many useful propositions, they have turned little attention to the political nature of higher
education governing boards and governance processes.
The current ascendance of an
essentially apolitical body of theories of organization in higher education is also unlikely
to bridge the gap. The data analysis of the two cases presented here suggests that with
elements of positive theories of institutions, State theoretical propositions, and theories of
power and elite formation, we can construct a political theoretical framework for research
on higher education governance and policy-making.
This political theoretical framework
has the potential to enhance our understanding of governance and policy-making in
higher education through:
1. Establishing the importance of looking at higher education institutions as sites of
contest, and of evaluating policy contests and governance crises in higher education for
evidence of conflict over ideology and resource allocation;
2. Facilitating the evaluation of decision–making structures and processes in higher
education as products of historical contests over ideology and resource allocation in
education and the broader State;
3. Conceptualizing the dynamics of educational change as a process conditioned by
competing demands for economic production on one hand and struggles for the redress of
historical inequality on the other, and;
4. Establishing the linkages between internal and external political contests in shaping
institutional processes and forms.
We hope that these findings from research on the governing boards at the
University of California and the Universidad Autonoma Nacional de Mexico will inspire
similar studies in different sectors of the higher education system, and in institutions
around the world.
We believe that applying a political theoretical framework to the
unique political dynamics in various national contexts will enhance our understanding of
higher education institutions as political institutions.
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