Senior Resident Dean Sharon L. Howell became the first of Harvard’s resident deans to publicly challenge the way that administrators handled their covert search of resident deans’ email accounts last fall and the fallout since the search came to light on Saturday.
In a Boston Globe article published Tuesday morning, Howell directly contested a statement issued Monday by Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith and College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds, saying that administrators had “immediately informed” Howell of the searches and their results after they occurred. Last September, administrators covertly accessed resident deans’ email accounts as part of an investigation, which sought to identify the source of a leak of information pertaining to the Government 1310 cheating case.
Howell, the highest-ranking Harvard resident dean, said that while she spoke with Hammonds and other College officials about the possibility of a search before it happened, she was not informed afterward that the search had ultimately taken place. That notification did not come until the Globe contacted Harvard with the story last week.
In a separate interview with The Crimson on Tuesday, Howell also said she was concerned about the suggestion disseminated in media reports that resident deans may not be faculty—a distinction that could determine whether the University broke its own policy by secretly searching resident deans’ accounts.
“I’ve been really disheartened by the coverage that has implied over and over again that resident deans are not faculty members,” Howell said. “We’re voting members of the faculty.”
Howell raised the concern once more in a letter to University President Drew G. Faust, while calling for a new and broader “conversation about integrity at Harvard.”
“What has so far been parsed in media accounts are the technical details of what happened here, but we think the more important questions this situation raises is about a critical trust as the heart of Harvard’s culture that is ours—yours—to protect or not,” Howell wrote in the letter, which was dated Monday.
Howell added that she and many other resident deans felt “dismay” upon hearing of the searches that took place “without our knowledge,” and that she worries the covert search set a dangerous tone for the University as a whole.
“Is this who we want to be? Do we want to forgo open communication in favor of secrecy and face-saving?” Howell asked in the letter. “I think that we should be able to expect more from our leaders, especially in moments of stress, when we need more than ever to work together and trust one another.”
Administrators have yet to publicly address Howell’s charges. Smith, who authorized the email search along with the University General Counsel, attended Tuesday’s regularly scheduled Administrative Board meeting, an unusual step given that he is not a member of the Board. Whether or not he addressed the assembled resident deans directly is uncertain.
Faust said in a statement Monday that she had not known about the email searches when they were happening. She said she only knew about the leaks that prompted the broader investigation and the issue’s “resolution.”
—Staff writer Nicholas P. Fandos can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @npfandos
—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @syweinstock
Registrar Digitalizes Midterm Grade Submission SystemThe College has overhauled the system used by faculty members to report their students’ midterm progress grades. A new online portal was launched earlier this month to allow professors to submit progress reports for struggling students to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ registrar’s office at any point during the term.
Sharon Howell's Letter to Faust Addressing the Secret Email SearchRead the full text of a March 11 letter from Senior Resident Dean Sharon Howell to University President Drew G. Faust. In the letter, Howell expressed concern about administrators' handling of a secret search of resident deans' emails last fall.
After Forwarding Advising Email, Resident Dean Threatened with Severe SanctionsThe Harvard administration threatened to severely sanction a resident dean who shared with two students an internal email advising Administrative Board members on how to counsel undergraduates implicated in the Government 1310 cheating case, four College administrators said Monday.
A Divided Duty: The Role of the Resident DeanThe resident deans hold a dual role within the framework of the College, interacting with students both as academic instructors and as House-level advisers. Current and former administrators say that over the past several decades the position has evolved from a role that drew an equal balance between scholarly and administrative work into a job that entails a sometimes overwhelming list of bureaucratic duties.