At Tuesday’s Ad Board meeting, Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 discussed potentially adding student representatives to the body and charged a handful of College administrators with looking into the issue.
Currently, only College deans, senior tutors and a fluctuating batch of professors comprise the 22-member board, which handles all undergraduate disciplinary matters and doles out punishments to students.
Harvard is the only Ivy League college lacking student representation at all levels of the judiciary process. Brown, Dartmouth, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale all allow students to serve on their primary judiciary bodies. Cornell and Columbia have faculty or administrators who handle routine disciplinary matters, but students sit on the bodies that oversee more complicated situations and appeals.
Gross wrote in an e-mail that he specifically asked the Ad Board’s executive committee to gather information from other institutions which include students on their disciplinary bodies and to report back to him in a few weeks.
Assistant Dean of the College John T. O’Keefe, who serves as secretary of the Ad Board, said discussion of student membership on the body “comes up every year or two,” but that this is the first time in his three and a half years on the board that the possibility has advanced beyond the discussion stage.
Many students have criticized the Ad Board for being secretive, arbitrary and unrepresentative of undergraduates’ norms.
“Its name has taken on a lot of negative connotations,” Isabelle Burtan ’06 said of the Ad Board, adding that it elicits images of “this nightmarish wood-paneled room where you’re all alone.”
Tuesday’s Ad Board discussion follows a call by Undergraduate Council President Rohit Chopra ’04 for the administration to examine the issue.
At Sunday’s council meeting, Chopra said he would approach Gross and Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby about creating an ad hoc Faculty committee to investigate the possibility of student representation on the Ad Board.
“It seems to me that there hasn’t been a serious consideration of the matter by the Faculty,” Chopra said. “I’m really happy to see that there’s serious investigation.”
Although the issue of student representation on the board will move past informal discussion, the outcome of the committee’s review is far from certain.
“I don’t think it’s the board’s top priority,” O’Keefe said.
“This is all preliminary,” Gross wrote in an e-mail. “Right now, I see persuasive arguments in both directions.”
The sentiment of current board members is split, according to Gross.
“There were people who couldn’t imagine it, and some who had worked at other institutions who were in favor of it,” Gross said. “The views on the executive committee were balanced, so I asked them to look into it.”