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Editorials

The Administrative Board’s Empty Promise

The database on cases and decisions must be released for the sake of transparency

By The Crimson Staff

Five years is a long time. In 2010, people thought that the iPad would turn out to be a silly punch line of a device. Many more felt outrage about the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil spill and compassion in the wake of a tragic earthquake in Haiti that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Five years ago, administrators promised students that the release of details about the often-mysterious proceedings of the Administrative Board was imminent; they announced plans to create a comprehensive database of Ad Board cases that clearly shows the outcome of many cases. At the time, the Ad Board had even hired a “management fellow” to direct the project. In 2010, that fellow, Megan Mitrovich, who has not worked at Harvard in nearly three years, told The Crimson, “The hope is that students will be able to use this [the release of information about past cases with identifying details removed] as a ground for appeal or to determine that they have no grounds for appeal.” Although the Ad Board has continued to release five-year aggregate statistics every year, just as it did before 2010, it has fallen far short of its promise to release information with any level of detail about particular cases.

This lengthy delay in releasing more details about its proceedings is absurd. Students facing discipline from the Ad Board are left in a constant state of uncertainty due to the complete lack of a reliable database with details of the Ad Board’s proceedings. The numbers currently provided by the Ad Board constitute the lowest possible denominator; there is no context given to help students understand the decision making of the Ad Board. While we understand the necessity of protecting the confidentiality of individuals involved in these cases, we have little doubt that the cases can be redacted such that any privacy issues are mitigated.

Further, the manner in which the College is currently handling the discussion of the database’s potential release is dishonest. The constant delaying and resetting of deadlines for the release of this database is simply unacceptable. If administrators are still planning on making this vital database a reality (as they should), they need to set a timeline for its release and abide by their promise. If, on the other hand, they have changed their minds and decided not to renege on their earlier promise, that too must be communicated clearly. While we are firmly opposed to this second outcome, a final decision is nevertheless a better option than the current uncertainty.

As we have previously opined with regard to the Honor Council and sexual assault statistics, transparency in disciplinary proceedings is vital. Five years should have been plenty of time for the Ad Board to create this database, if only they had prioritized their promise; instead, the Ad Board’s inaction has forced students to face cases in front of the College’s highest disciplinary board with insufficient preparation. If Apple can change the way that people think about portable computers in five years, the Harvard administration can surely create a basic database as a service to students facing the uncertainty of an Ad Board case in the same timeframe.

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