Ad Board's Advising System Faces Criticism

Part II of a four-part series analyzing how successful the 2009-2010 reforms have been in making the Administrative Board’s disciplinary process more educational, transparent, and empowering for accused students. Part IPart III, and Part IV were published Oct. 23, 25, and 26.

When Daniel learned that he was among dozens of students being investigated for cheating in Government 1310: “Introduction to Congress,” he set up meetings with five attorneys in the Boston area. All of them told him the same thing—do not talk to your resident dean.

Daniel’s resident dean will not vote on his case, but he is not his advocate, and nothing Daniel says to him will be kept confidential. In fact, Daniel’s resident dean, who like all other resident deans sits on the Ad Board, is required to relay anything Daniel says that is relevant to the case to the other Board members responsible for deciding his fate.

Now, as he drafts his statement and awaits his hearing before the subcommittee, Daniel, who requested that his name be changed because he does not want others to know that he is accused of cheating, refuses to communicate directly with his resident dean.

Daniel’s concerns about his resident dean’s conflicted interests are nothing new. In 2009, responding to a “perceived ‘dual role’” of resident deans, the committee charged with reforming the Ad Board recommended a changed role for the resident dean in the process.

Their recommendations, which have since been implemented, called for the Secretary of the Ad Board, John “Jay” L. Ellison, to deliver Ad Board cases to the accused student, a role that was previously held by the resident dean.

The Committee to Review the Administrative Board also advocated for a “more robust” role for personal advisers—typically a coach, faculty member, tutor, or proctor—whom a student can select to advise them in addition to their resident dean.

But today, with personal advisers rarely used, critics say that these reforms have had little impact in remedying what they describe as a deeply inadequate advising process for students facing disciplinary proceedings.

And this fall, as the massive Government 1310 scandal places unprecedented demands on the resident deans who are responsible for guiding their own students through the process and deliberating on the fates of dozens of others, critics say that the resident dean’s contradictory role is brought into even sharper focus.

THE PERSONAL ADVISER

Matthew L. Sundquist ’09, a former Undergraduate Council president who served on the reform committee, said that the committee’s recommendations came in a climate in which many perceived that the resident dean was pulled in multiple directions.

“There was a general impression among some people that resident deans had slipped into the role of serving as prosecution, defender, and jury for students,” Sundquist said.

Sundquist said that in conversations with committee members, students had expressed a “deep interest” in a greater role for personal advisers, who at that time could only offer moral support in hearings.

“We thought, if that’s what students want, and that’s what makes students comfortable, then let’s get that person in the room with the student” in a more empowered role, Sundquist said.

Today, personal advisers, whom accused students can select from among officers of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, enjoy greatly enhanced privileges. Personal advisers are now permitted to access all relevant documents pertaining to a case, accompany a student into the room of the proceedings, call recesses on behalf of the student, and address the Board if the student forgets to bring up relevant information.

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