On this same page, we have made numerous calls for greater openness by the University in a variety of forums. We believe that free and open communication is essential to building a strong community at Harvard.
To this end, we would strongly endorse publishing a record of Administrative Board cases and decisions, provided of course that students' names were not included.
One clear benefit that would result from publication of such a record is that it might function as a deterrent to further disciplinary problems. If students understand in a more clear and palpable way that their actions can have very serious consequences, they will think twice before breaking College rules.
More importantly, publishing a record would also add a valuable element of accountability to the disciplinary process. If its workings are under public scrutiny, the Ad Board will have an additional incentive to be as fair as possible in reviewing cases. Under the status quo, the Ad Board can apply rules inconsistently or treat similar cases in different ways precisely because it operates under the veil of secrecy.
We recognize the legitimacy of the privacy considerations involved in this matter. The Administrative Board is not allowed to disclose both its findings in a case and the identity of the student involved. These rules were crafted for a reason and they must be respected. (Associate Dean of the College Thomas A. Dingman '67 may have broken these rules earlier this month when he told the president of the D.U. final club's graduate board the result of two Ad Board cases.)
While confidentiality considerations may make publishing a record more difficult, they do not make it impossible. The record can be adjusted on a case-by-case basis to guarantee that the privacy rights of students involved in Ad Board proceedings are fully protected. The description of a particular case can be made more or less explicit depending on the situation. While selective editing in the interest of confidentiality could distort the proceedings, such a record would certainly be an improvement on the current situation.
The benefits that would accrue from this change more than justify the risks involved. Other area colleges, such as Tufts and Dartmouth, have already demonstrated that it is possible to publish such records. We urge Harvard to follow the example of these other schools and publish a record of Ad Board proceedings. Furthermore, we believe that students should be able to reveal the contents of their own Ad Board hearings, as long as they don't infringe upon the confidentiality granted to other students.
It appears that a proposal calling for publication of records would enjoy support from administrators as well as students. Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 has said that he would be in favor of such a proposal. Future Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 said that a record would provide the community with "better information," although he also added that the change might be difficult to implement.
At the most basic level, the issue at hand is about the right to know. Students are entitled to information about the workings of the disciplinary system that reviews their actions and punishes them for wrongdoings.
A disciplinary system that does not make its procedures clear and comprehensible can have no real legitimacy. We hope that Harvard will take action soon and make anonymous publication of Ad Board records a reality.
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