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Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds told an audience of students on Thursday that College administrators are nowhere near allowing students to participate in the Administrative Board’s decision-making process.
“We have some pieces of the ways in which students could be involved and adjudicate in certain kinds of issues, but we don’t have the full picture,” said Hammonds, who spoke as a moderator at a Harvard College Governance panel organized by the Undergraduate Council.
Currently, a body of 30 administrators and faculty members hear student disciplinary cases. But in 2009, a small committee charged with reforming Harvard’s disciplinary board recommended further discussion of the possibility of creating a second alternative board—composed of adminstrators, faculty, and student members—that accused students could opt into.
These discussions have yet to begin, but Hammonds said administrators are in the preliminary stages of researching what she said would be an “incredibly complicated” transition.
“When that suggestion was first made, I said, ‘We really have to understand how that would work and how it works in practice at other institutions,’” Hammonds said. “I still don’t have a complete picture of that, nor what benefits it would bring to us. I think it just needs a lot more research and study.”
Lowell House Master Diana L. Eck, a panelist at the event, voiced skepticism about creating an additional student-populated board.
“I certainly would object to having two different bodies—that you could go to this one or that one,” said Eck, who is also a professor of comparative religion. “That introduces an element into the various procedures that I think is probably not really fair, actually.”
Eck added that she thinks the task of adjudicating disciplinary cases is too great a burden to place on students.
“This would be an enormous responsibility that I don’t think the University has any business asking of students—it’s too time-consuming, because the Ad Board will spend literally hours and hours and hours on a single student case,” Eck said.
The participation of students in the Ad Board process was among a variety of issues addressed at the event on Thursday. The afternoon discussion featured four Harvard administrators: Eck; Lars P. K. Madsen, senior special assistant to University President Drew G. Faust; Susan L. Lively, secretary of the faculty; and David R. Friedrich, interim associate dean of student life. UC president Danny P. Bicknell ’13 also sat on the panel.
Hammonds said that the primary goal of the meeting was to address student confusion surrounding the governance of the College, particularly among student representatives who serve on Harvard’s administrative and faculty committees. Hammonds said there is often “a disconnect” between the representatives who serve on these committees and the student body they represent.
“Here we thought we had a robust system of student representation, and what we found was that we had one that wasn’t working the way either side felt it should work,” Hammonds said.
The meeting also featured questions that ranged in topic from the reasoning behind the current freshman housing system, to Harvard’s investment in fossil fuels, to the state of the mental health conversation on campus.
Following the panel, Bicknell and UC Vice President Pratyusha Yalamanchi ’13 introduced two new UC websites: “Navigate Harvard”—a site with flowcharts designed to help students find names and contact information for administrators—and “We the Crimson”—a forum meant to allow Harvard students to submit and receive peer feedback on their ideas for campus change.
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