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Last March, the Administrative Board Review Committee presented Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds with a report suggesting potential changes to the Ad Board—Harvard College’s primary disciplinary body—and its policies.
Since the committee finished its report eight months ago, the administration has begun to implement changes in the Ad Board’s review process—starting in May, when Hammonds adopted recommendations from the report that did not require a vote of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. These proposals included altering the role of the resident dean and decreasing the number of Ad Board members who attend hearings in which the accused is present.
Then, at the first Faculty meeting of this year, the Faculty unanimously elected to give the 22-member Faculty Council the power to expel a student, instead of requiring the vote of the full Faculty.
But the report itself has not been made available to the College community—leading those outside the administration to question the exact nature of its content and to call for its public release.
In response to a question posed by former Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 at the final Faculty meeting of the academic year in May, Hammonds informed those in attendance that she would release the report.
But in a meeting with The Crimson last Thursday, Hammonds said that the report, which she commissioned, would not be made public.
“I thought I had said no, but I guess I said yes. I don’t know if I was nervous or what,” Hammonds said.
UNDER LOCK AND KEY
Although changes to the Ad Board have already begun, professors and Undergraduate Council representatives are still wondering why the entire report has not been released.
Donald H. Pfister, a botany professor and a member of the Ad Board Review Committee, said that the release of the full report would assist future discussions on potential areas of reform.
“I think the intent should be to get the report out,” said Pfister, the former master of Kirkland House. “Whether it’s the original, or a modified version that we can go back over, is not so important to me.”
Lewis said he thinks it would be valuable for the Harvard community to understand the contents of the report before considering future changes, adding that he hoped that some form of the report would be made available before the Faculty was asked to deliberate upon more legislation.
Leaders of the Undergraduate Council’s Student Life Committee, which organizes the Council’s outreach efforts on Ad Board reform, also called for greater transparency from the College administration.
“Obviously we would always like to see things released in the open,” said Student Life Committee Vice Chair Eric N. Hysen ’11, who is also currently running for UC vice president. “[But] more important is the actual substance of the changes.”
A STUDENT VOICE
One recommendation from the committee that has not been publicly released proposes a student presence in disciplinary decisions.
The Ad Board Review Committee advocated a model where students could select one of two committees—one with students and one without—to hear their case, according to Pfister.
Hammonds told The Crimson that there would be recommendations in the spring relating to “student participation in governance,” though the nature of the changes has not been publicly discussed.
Pfister said College disciplinary proceedings would be improved if students were involved in the adjudicating process.
“Students have insight into students’ lives,” Pfister said. “We were looking for ways to take advantage of some of that insight.”
Senan Ebrahim ’12, chair of the UC’s Student Life Committee, said that the issue of student representation in disciplinary proceedings is “absolutely a question at the forefront of everyone’s mind.”
Currently, the only disciplinary body in the College in which students can participate is the Student-Faculty Judicial Board, which has heard only one case in the 20 years of its existence due to its limited purview, according to Jay L. Ellison, associate dean of the College and secretary of the Ad Board.
Another issue that the Ad Board Committee sought to address in its report is plagiarism in the digital age, but these recommendations have also been withheld from the public eye.
Students, faculty, and administrators have expressed concerns that the College’s plagiarism policies have not kept pace with the expanded use of Internet resources in students’ work.
“It feels different with the Internet than it was 20 years ago when people were going to the library xeroxing books,” Ellison said.
Hammonds said she thinks members of the College community need to have conversations about ways of combating modern forms of plagiarism.
In light of the changes presented by technology, the Ad Board Reform Committee hoped to devise a wider range of punishments so that the Ad Board would be able to impose more appropriate consequences upon plagiarists, Pfister said. Guidelines for punishments are not set by the Ad Board itself, but by the Faculty and the administration.
“The Faculty rules as they stand right now are the ones we enforce,” Ellison said.
Though some students and faculty have expressed a desire to view the contents of the Ad Board report, Hammonds said that the purpose of the document was to provide her with a body of potential recommendations and was never intended for public release.
“I looked through those recommendations and have tried to move forward on a number of them that could be done quickly and that I thought could be very beneficial to the students,” Hammonds said. “There are a set of other ones that will take much longer, and I didn’t really feel that those should be the ones that we should put those out for discussion without having a process for thinking about how we want to deal with those discussions and a process for having discussions and perhaps looking at legislation.”
UC presidential candidate George J.J. Hayward ’11, who is also a Crimson editor, said that although he understands that Hammonds maybe be hesitant to release the report if it contains any details about specific Ad Board cases, he believes that students and faculty should ultimately be informed of the committee’s proposals.
“In terms of the Ad Board Committee’s recommendations, Dean Hammonds has the right to weigh those recommendations and meet with her advisors and her staff and see which are confidential,” Hayward said. “Once those recommendations are decided upon and once they are moving forward, I think students should get the most transparent process possible.”
—Crimson staff writer Lauren D. Kiel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Crimson staff writer Eric P. Newcomer can be reached at email@example.com.
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