Evans Clark, a professor of history and politics and Princeton, lamented the increased influence of members of the business community on American universities in 1917. Clark perceived these board of trustees or regents as often lacking either familiarity or best interests of the school they represented:
Princeton University, however, is legally not the Faculty and students, the community citizenship, but a group of twenty-nine men in no way responsible to them, and none of whom lives or functions at the university. These twenty-nine men at Princeton, and other small groups like them in every college and university community, are in law rulers whose power is absolute.
They have the legal authority to employ and dismiss whomsoever they wish in the service of their institution — the President, the professors, administrative officers, janitors, and day laborers. And no one of these, it is well to note, has any more constitutional security of tenure than another. They can discharge a janitor who complains that his wages are low, or an instructor who makes the fact known to his classes.
That Trustees and Regents to not exercise in practice every one of the powers granted to them by law is proof not of any lack of authority, but merely a lack of desire to do so.
It’s an increasing issue now: according to a 2015 Atlantic article, “Twenty percent of U.S. college presidents in 2012 came from fields outside academia, up from from 13 percent six years earlier, according to the American Council on Education.”
Business Men in Control of American Colleges: Member of Princeton’s Teaching Force Criticises Condition Which He Regards as a Baneful Autocracy in Higher Education
From Sunday, June 10, 1917