Faculty Look for Answers on Investigation of Email Search

In an email to University President Drew G. Faust last Friday, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Docket Committee asked for clarification about the scope and timetable of an outside investigation of Harvard’s email search scandal commissioned by Faust.

The committee, which sets the agenda for monthly faculty meetings, also asked Faust to make clear whether or not the findings of the investigation will be shared with faculty and what form such a disclosure might take, according to history professor Maya R. Jasanoff ’96, the vice-chair of the Docket Committee.

The request comes almost two weeks after Faust told faculty at their monthly meeting on April 2 that she had commissioned Boston attorney Michael B. Keating to “verify” the findings of an initial internal investigation of the searches. Though she said in an interview last week that Keating would ultimately report to a special subcommittee of the Harvard Corporation, Faust had not yet clarified what that investigation might look like or when it would occur.

University spokesperson Kevin Galvin said on Sunday that the details of the outside investigation have not yet been determined.

“Conversations between Mr. Keating and the Corporation subcommittee to which he will report are ongoing and the timetable and scope of his review have yet to be finalized,” Galvin said in an emailed statement.

Classics professor Richard F. Thomas, a member of the Faculty Council, said that those findings will not bear much significance unless shared with faculty.

“It can’t really be a fully persuasive document unless its findings are publicized in some way,” Thomas said.

The committee’s email to Faust was co-signed by biological oceanography professor James J. McCarthy and computer science professor Hanspeter Pfister, the committee’s two other faculty members.

Absent from the email was the name Dean of FAS Michael D. Smith, the chair ex officio of the Docket Committee. Smith authorized the secret search of the resident deans’ administrative email accounts last September in the hopes of identifying the source of the leak of what was deemed confidential Administrative Board communications about the Government 1310 cheating case. Smith wrote in a March 11 statement that those searches had been limited to resident deans’ administrative accounts and that no further action was taken after the searches identified the resident dean who had forwarded an internal advising email to two students.

But on April 2, Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds revealed to faculty at their monthly meeting that without Smith’s permission, she had subsequently ordered an additional set of searches of the administrative and faculty email accounts of the resident dean in question. Without Smith’s signature, those searches explicitly violated the FAS faculty email privacy policy.

“I think we need to distinguish what happened in September from what happened in March,” Jasanoff said on Friday. “I think that I and a lot of other faculty were very upset to find out what we were told in the March 11 statement was not the whole truth.”

With several College administrators already challenging key aspects of the April 2 statement, senior faculty members said this weekend that top deans had degraded much of their credibility regarding the searches. Even if the searches were carried out with the best intent, only a truly third-party report can now bring transparency to the case, they said.

“I just feel that we really haven’t gotten to the bottom of the conflicting stories yet,” said classics department Chair Mark J. Schiefsky. “It was good to have the apologies at the meeting, but there remain questions of what was done, when, by whom, and possible conflicts with FAS policy.”

Government professor Theda R. Skocpol said that news of the searches has been “deflating” for faculty members, many of whom do not know how to react. Skocpol, like other professors, said that the Keating report will only carry weight if it is completely transparent.

“I think a lot of people feel that there are murky areas and that some of the murkiness is disquieting, so if President Faust can commission something that looks independent and honest and above all thorough, I think that would be helpful if it’s public, but I don’t know if it will be,” said Skocpol, the former dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

—Staff writer Nicholas P. Fandos can be reached at nicholasfandos@collge.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @npfandos.

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