Letter to the Editor

"A Vote of Confidence"

To the Editor:

We write to say that we disagree strongly with the Crimson’s April 4 staff editorial, “To Rebuild Trust, Hammonds Must Resign.”

Those of us who work closely with Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds admire her as a colleague in the academy, as a faculty colleague, and as Dean of the College. We have seen her grapple with countless issues on behalf of both students and faculty.

Those of us who are House Masters have been intimately involved in the difficulties of balancing transparency with privacy and confidentiality. We know that as the school year began in September, there was an unprecedented level of anxiety amongst our students and their families as the Ad Board began to adjudicate, as fairly and individually as possible, the cases associated with the cheating scandal. Students were on edge. Resident deans were on overdrive. And eyes across the country were on Harvard.

We were all alarmed at the possibility that the confidentiality of this much-scrutinized process could be compromised when an Ad Board email appeared in the press. Preserving the privacy of students was critical to the process. As the cases unfolded, we believe that foremost in the mind of Dean Hammonds was the confidentiality of the deliberations concerning the students. It is difficult to deal with situations that are without precedent, but the Office of the General Counsel was engaged at each step.

President Drew G. Faust made clear at the April 2 meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences that, upon her review, she found no consistent policy across the University on email privacy and that there are two conflicting policies in FAS.  She announced the launch of a University-wide task force on email policy and a legal review of this particular case in which many of the critical junctures involved confidential discussions.  In doing so, she set a positive course for the future.

We disagree with the Crimson’s unsubstantiated allegations about confidential matters currently under investigation. We believe that Dean Hammonds’ apology and explanation was generous, heartfelt, honest, and exemplary. Let it be an instructive lesson for all of us in dealing with complex issues.

We affirm our confidence in the leadership and the integrity of Dean Hammonds. This is a time to come together, show respect, and have thoughtful dialogue about such difficult matters.

The below signatories are all faculty and/or House Masters at Harvard. Asterisks denote House Masters:

Emmanuel Akyeampong, Ali Asani, Dorothy Austin*, Robert Bates, Robin Bernstein, Vincent Brown, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Homi Bhabha, Suzanne Blier, Lawrence Bobo, Glenda Carpio, Luis Fernandez Cifuentes, Jean Comaroff, John Comaroff, Diana Eck*, Caroline Elkins, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Virginie Greene, Jennifer Hochschild, Biodun Jeyifo, Michele Lamont, Christie McDonald*, Ingrid Monson, Marcyliena Morgan, John Mugane, Jacob Olupona, Stephanie Robinson*, Michael Rosengarten*, Tommie Shelby, Kay Shelemay, Jim Sidanius, Doris Sommer, Ronald Sullivan*, and David R. Williams.

Cambridge, Mass.

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