Gross Considers Ad Board Review

The Administrative Board, the committee charged with examining student cases of academic and disciplinary misconduct in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), may come under scrutiny itself this fall.

Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 is considering forming a committee of faculty and administrators to review the procedures of the Ad Board next semester, after professors finish voting on the curricular review this spring.

It is possible that students may also serve on this committee, according to Gross.

Gross said the committee is a response to concerns that students do not have a voice when they go in front of the board. Currently there are no students on the 35-member panel, and those students called before the board are allowed only voiceless “advocates”—FAS affiliates who may be present but may not speak on the students’ behalf—as outside support.

Gross said that another concern is the board’s sanctions. Punishments for unsatisfactory academic records and disciplinary cases currently include academic probation, required withdrawal, or recommendation to dismiss for serious misconduct.

Gross did not propose a specific timetable or composition for the proposed committee.

“I have not discussed a review with the full Ad Board, but have done so with a few of its members as well as with some faculty that I might recruit to the committee,” Gross wrote in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

Several board members contacted by The Crimson yesterday said that they were not aware of Gross’ plans and said that a possible review had not been discussed at meetings.

When informed about the possibility of a review, many members of the Ad Board told The Crimson they thought an examination would be fruitful.

“I always think it is a good idea to evaluate and to make sure your practices are the best they can be,” said Scott V. Edwards, Agassiz professor of zoology, who has served on the board since the beginning of this academic year.

“I’m delighted with the news,” said Cabot Professor of Biology Richard M. Losick, who is serving his first year on the Ad Board. “In my opinion, the Ad Board has operated under the radar screen of the Faculty, and its procedures have not been reviewed in recent memory.”

The most recent procedural revisions to the Ad Board occurred in 2001, when an independent fact finder was introduced for disciplinary cases, most commonly those involving sexual assault.

STUDENT VOICE

The 35 members of the board are Gross, three professors from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the 13 Allston Burr resident deans, and other College administrators.

Gross’ call for a review echoes complaints by students in the past, most recently manifested in an unsuccessful 2004 push by the Undergraduate Council (UC) to include undergraduates on the board.

The 2004 campaign failed to spark a debate about the additional value students could add to the board, according to John T. O’Keefe, who served as secretary to the Ad Board for four years until 2005 and is currently a dean at Wellesley.

Current Ad Board member Judith F. Chapman, who is also Quincy House’s resident dean, said she has mixed feelings about the possibility of students serving on the Board.

“We deal with many very sensitive cases, and we worry about privacy,” Chapman said.

All other Ivy League institutions include students on their judicial bodies, although Cornell and Columbia have separate disciplinary committees limited to faculty and administrators.

Although the current UC does not have a formal position regarding the Ad Board, UC President Ryan A. Petersen ’08 said “there is a strong tradition within the Undergraduate Council for advocating for an Administrative Board that has student representation.”

“I think that tradition continues today,” he added.

FACULTY VOICE

In addition to the specific concerns he raised about the Ad Board, Gross said that it is important for faculty to be involved in the review.

“The Administrative Board administers the rules of the Faculty, as described in the handbook,” Gross said in an interview last Friday. “I think it’s productive that faculty look at its administrative procedures.”

Edwards said that faculty members are often unaware of the procedures of the Ad Board, which enacts the Faculty’s rules, and will need some “mutual education” with members of the Ad Board.

Losick said faculty involvement would be important if a committee is created.

“The faculty have an important stake in ensuring that undergraduate disciplinary matters are handled in a fair manner,” Losick said.

Students contacted by The Crimson about their experiences with the Ad Board did not return requests for comment.

According to the Ad Board’s annual “Guide for Students,” which explains the board’s procedures and policies, the board made over 2,300 decisions during the 2005-2006 academic year. Only six percent were disciplinary cases.

—Staff writer Madeline W. Lissner can be reached at mlissner@fas.harvard.edu.