One Year After Secret Searches, Faculty Say Governance Grievances Fading

On March 9, 2013—one year ago Sunday—members of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences learned for the first time that top administrators had secretly searched the email accounts of 17 resident deans in connection with the Government 1310 cheating scandal.

In the days and weeks following the announcement, faculty members loudly voiced concerns over faculty governance and consultation, as well as a loss of trust in administrators that they said had violated their privacy policy and reasonable expectations.

But one year later, professors say those concerns have faded within the minds of members of the University’s flagship faculty. Along with the passage of time, they point to some combination of three key actions—an external report on actions surrounding the searches, a draft of a new electronic communications policy, and the resignation of one of the deans responsible for the searches—as having mellowed faculty concern.

“As far I can tell…it’s not something that is particularly on the mind, at the moment, of faculty,” Mathematics professor Wilfried Schmid said. “This has somewhat faded. I think in other ways, too, there have been some attempts by the administration to soften things in various ways.”

Philosophy professor Edward J. Hall attributed the retreat of interest to the faculty’s tendency toward a “short attention span” as well as a growth in understanding of the events that transpired surrounding the email search.

Twenty faculty members, many of whom vocally voiced concerns last spring in letters, interviews, and Faculty meetings, declined or did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story.

FAS Dean Michael D. Smith also declined to comment on the aftermath of the searches or the state of his relationship with the Faculty he oversees for this story. Smith has refused to meet for regularly scheduled interviews with The Crimson or discuss the searches and their aftermath since May 2013, the last time he discussed the searches with reporters.

Smith, along with then-Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds, took responsibility for the initial searches, which were executed in Sept. 2012 in an effort to identify who had shared internal Administrative Board documents related to the Gov. 1310 case. On April 2, relations between administrators and faculty members deteriorated further when Hammonds told professors at their monthly meeting that she had acted without Smith’s approval to authorize a second, more invasive round of queries.

At their next meeting in May, the last of the year, faculty members spent nearly two hours lodging complaints with administrators over issues of governance, loss of trust, and communication.

Later that month, The Crimson reported that Hammonds would resign at the academic year’s end. In a statement after her resignation became official, Hammonds maintained that the email search scandal “was difficult but it was not a motivating factor in my decision to step down.”

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