Harris, Mehta running for Board of Trustees vacancy

Ballou Hall is pictured on Oct. 10, 2016. Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily Archives

The Tufts University Alumni Association will soon send ballots to Tufts alumni to select the candidate who will fill one open seat on the Board of Trustees. The voting period will run from Feb. 17 through April 12, with the result to be announced at the Alumni Council meeting on April 25, according to Interim Executive Director of the Office of Alumni Relations Bill Gehling.

The seat, which will be vacated by David Rone (LA’84) upon the expiration of his term, will be contested by Doug Harris (LA’81) and Dr. Tejas Mehta (M’92), who were selected by the Nominating Committee of the Alumni Council.

The Board of Trustees, the highest governing authority of the university, is the decision-making body for a wide range of issues including changes in tuition, facilities and investment practices.

The body is composed of 40 members, a quarter of which are elected directly by Tufts’ alumni to serve five-year terms.

Gehling described the uniqueness of Tufts’ selection process for those serving on the Board of Trustees.

“The election of alumni trustees continues a time-honored tradition of the direct election of members to the Tufts University Board of Trustees by the alumni body. Few other higher-ed institutions allow the alumni body to elect trustees,” Gehling wrote in an email to the Daily. “This election provides Tufts alumni with direct representation on the governing board of Tufts University.

Harris, the chief executive officer of The Kaleidoscope Group, which is a consulting firm focusing on issues in diversity and inclusion, said in an interview with the Daily that Tufts’ character and the opportunity to give back to Tufts were his reasons for accepting the nomination.

“[Tufts] is a very dynamic institution, it’s a changing world,” Harris said. “People have different experiences while they’re there and how can we be sure everybody gets the gold out of what Tufts has to offer. I’ve accepted the nomination to be able to kind of play a role in that capacity.”

Harris described the wide range of experience he has in many different environments.

“I’ve dealt with Tufts, I’ve dealt with pro [sports] teams … we’ve had 800 clients … we’ve dealt with hospitals, universities, I did a study at Tufts on minority faculty and why they were leaving,” Harris said.

Harris added that he has worked with students, teachers and administrators, allowing him to be “transformational no matter what the scenario is.”

Mehta, the chief of breast imaging at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and co-director of the Linsey BreastCare Center, emphasized her wealth of medical experience in the candidate statement provided to Tufts alumni.

“My experiences as a healthcare provider, researcher, educator and leader … make me well-equipped to understand the resources needed to support teaching, research, and service excellence,” the statement read.

Gehling emphasized the quality of both candidates for the position.

“The slate of candidates for this year’s election includes two exceptional Tufts alumni who are very committed to Tufts University,” Gehling said. “We appreciate their dedication to Tufts and their willingness to serve on the Board of Trustees.

Trustee Representative Charming Dube discussed what he believes is the critical role alumni members play on the Board of Trustees.

“Directly elected Alumni representatives are, in my opinion, one of the more foresighted parts of the Tufts bureaucracy,” Dube, a senior, said in an electronic message. “They give a lot of voice to the alumni community which, at any point, almost certainly outnumbers the student body.”

The Office of Alumni Relations expects to send approximately 70,000 ballots to alumni, according to Gehling.

Past elections, however, have struggled with low response rates. The response rate has historically fallen between 5% and 8%, according to Gehling.

Last year’s election resulted in a response rate of 7%, a fall from the previous cycle’s record of nearly 10%.

Dube added that, despite low turnout rates, the alumni election supports the trustees in creating an environment in which they can conduct their work effectively.

“[The alumni election] mechanism does help because part of the job of the Board of Trustees is to be a little insulated from the pendulum of campus opinion and politics so that they can provide that critical stability necessary in the running of an institution the size of a university,” Dube said.

Gehling also shared the Office of Alumni Relations’ efforts to boost turnout.

“To enhance participation, the Office of Alumni Relations has increased its use of social media to call attention to the election and strengthened its messaging to emphasize the significance of each vote,” Gehling said.