Ad Board Strives for Transparency

College hires new management fellow to organize Ad Board data

The Administrative Board plans to release this fall a comprehensive set of data detailing its decisions, casting light upon a confidential disciplinary process often seen as shrouded by the student body.

The database, which includes brief descriptions of some cases, will be made available to undergraduates on the Ad Board’s website sometime this semester, according to John "Jay" L. Ellison, secretary of the Ad Board.

As the College’s primary disciplinary body, the Ad Board hears many academic appeals, including petitions to take a leave of absence, to enroll in the College for a ninth term, or to enroll in two overlapping classes.

The College recently hired Megan R. Mitrovich as the Ad Board’s management fellow to help improve its efforts at transparency and organize the Ad Board’s data.

"At the end of the year we want to have a pretty comprehensive database that would be very thorough and exact in articulating the different sanctions and outcomes," said Mitrovich, who graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education last spring.

In addition to providing more statistics about the Ad Board’s decisions, Mitrovich said some limited information would be available about past cases.

"The hope is that students will be able to use this as a ground for appeal or to determine that they have no grounds for appeal," she said.

The new information could provide greater insight into how the board makes its decisions.

"I think part of the transparency of the Ad Board is to let people see the statistics of what we actually do," Ellison said.

Currently, the board releases yearly statistics but does not provide details about specific cases.

For over a decade, the College has published a five-year summary with limited information about the Ad Board’s decisions. For example, one summary lists the number of students who were required to withdraw during the 2009-2010 school year for academic dishonesty, but does not provide any specific information about why those cases resulted in the decision.

Additionally, some categories of infractions listed in the summaries—such as "social behavior ~ alcohol"—can be difficult for undergraduates to understand without more context, Ellison said.

The Ad Board underwent a series of reforms last year, including reshaping the role of the resident dean and changing its process for interviewing students before the board.

Starting next month, Mitrovich will also work closely with the Office of Undergraduate Education to examine the issue of academic dishonesty at Harvard. As Harvard considers hiring an outside researcher to study academic dishonesty, Mitrovich will assist the College in studying the issue on campus.

—Staff writer Eric P. Newcomer can be reached at newcomer@fas.harvard.edu.

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