I was reading this dude's Wikipedia page and it caught my attention that he seems to have served on the boards of both Chapman University and Caltech. Although his status on Chapman's board of trustees has turned "emeritus chair"1 there seems to be significant overlaps between his roles. He chaired the Chapman board from 1976 till 20012, and has been a Caltech trustee since 1992, a life trustee since 2008.3

I'm assuming this practice isn't unheard of or even uncommon. Has it never become a conflict-of-interest issue? Why isn't it one considering universities are vying largely in the same pool or pools with significant overlap for potential donations, resources, federal and state fundings, local investment opportunities, and even land when those schools are in geographical proximity as is the case for these two schools.

In the corporate world people can sit on multiple boards as long as the companies they serve on the boards of aren't competitors. Another fact is that higher education has been compared to the corporate world a lot and a lot of university administrators in the U.S. are paid corporate level salaries.

  • 2
    Chapman and Caltech are not exactly competing for the same students or grants.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Mar 13 at 23:43
  • 1
    @JonCuster They both claim to be the top-tier private research institution...
    – dodo
    Commented Mar 14 at 4:53
  • They're not private companies. They are not really in competition?
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 14 at 8:54
  • Caltech and Chapman are separated by 40 miles of SoCal sprawl. I'd hardly call that "geographical proximity" and I highly doubt there is any competition between them for land. Commented Mar 17 at 21:37
  • Such conflicts are often handled with disclosure and recusal. I'm sure both universities were well aware that he was also on the board of the other, and in the unlikely event of an issue where his duties to them really were in conflict, he could recuse himself. That would surely be so rare that it wouldn't significantly reduce his effectiveness as a board member. Commented Mar 17 at 21:45


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