Release of Ad Board Case Database Remains Delayed

Nearly two and a half years after its originally slated release date, a database intended to increase the transparency of the Administrative Board process has yet to be made public.

Since first pushing back the release of the database in 2010, administrators have cited both confidentiality concerns and a heavy workload for the data’s continued delay. And this week, four months after Harvard resolved the last cases in the Government 1310 cheating scandal, Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Jeff Neal wrote in an emailed statement to The Crimson that “the large volume of work this year necessarily took precedence over this project.”

He added that the Ad Board is “continuing to consider ways in which it can release more detailed statistics,” but did not provide an updated estimate for when the database will be unveiled.

Neal’s statement comes amid heightened scrutiny of top Harvard administrators, who have been accused of acting without transparency in secretly searching the email accounts of resident deans, and then later contradicting an initial statement about the scope of the search.

Since the database project was announced by Secretary of the Ad Board John “Jay” L. Ellison in September 2010, College administrators have worked to compile detailed summaries of past Ad Board cases.

Those case summaries, which will omit all information that could identify involved students, are expected to be viewable online and include academic integrity cases going back three years and 10 years for cases involving peer disputes, such as sexual assault allegations.

For years, the Ad Board has published yearly statistics about its proceedings without information about specific cases. A five-year summary including statistics up to the 2009-2010 academic year are available on the Ad Board’s website, and additional statistics up to the 2011-2012 school year were released to The Crimson last fall.

But the release of the proposed case database would provide an unprecedented level of detail about the Ad Board’s disciplinary process.

Administrators have said that concerns about properly protecting student privacy have slowed the release of the database. A year ago, Ellison told The Crimson that he estimated that the first part of the database, which would deal with academic integrity cases, would be available by the end of the spring 2012 semester.

Neal also told The Crimson last fall that the Ad Board needed to focus on resolving current cases before turning its attention “back to longer-term projects.”

In his statement Monday, Neal wrote that the College has a “continuing obligation” to student privacy as it moves forward with the project.

“The College’s purpose in announcing plans to release more detailed statistics about Administrative Board cases was to provide students with more insight on how certain types of allegations have been resolved in the past,” Neal wrote. “The Board is continuing to consider ways in which it can release more detailed statistics while still protecting the privacy of those involved and will continue this work as other priorities—namely the resolution of its ongoing cases—permit.”

—Michelle Denise L. Ferreol and Jared T. Lucky contributed to the reporting of this article.

—Staff writer Madeline R. Conway can be reached at mconway@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter @MadelineRConway.

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