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Ad Board Required 50 Undergraduates to Withdraw Last Year

Brett Flehinger, Harvard College's associate dean for academic integrity and student conduct, pictured here in 2017.
Brett Flehinger, Harvard College's associate dean for academic integrity and student conduct, pictured here in 2017. By Soumyaa Mazumder
By Delano R. Franklin, Crimson Staff Writer

The Administrative Board required 50 undergraduates to withdraw from Harvard College for academic or disciplinary infractions in the 2018-2019 academic year, according to data the Ad Board released last month.

That figure is the highest since the 2014-2015 academic year, when the Ad Board required 59 students to withdraw.

Ten of the past year’s withdrawals were related to “social behavior” issues, which include drug and alcohol offenses and sexual misconduct. The remaining 40 withdrawals were cases of students failing to meet certain academic requirements.

The Ad Board also placed 30 students on disciplinary probation and 123 on academic probation — roughly the same number as in the past several years.

The Ad Board’s membership consists of a few dozen College administrators and faculty, and is chaired by Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana. The disciplinary body is charged with reviewing students’ academic records and enforcing College policies related to student conduct.

The Ad Board often requires students to withdraw after serious misconduct or after receiving unsatisfactory grades in two consecutive semesters. First withdrawals from the College are usually temporary, though second withdrawals are typically final.

In disciplinary cases, the Ad Board may also elect to “admonish” students for less serious offenses. The body admonished 42 students and recorded 35 internal “house warnings” in 2018-2019. The Ad Board only records — and does not directly issue — house warnings, according to Brett Flehinger, the College’s associate dean for academic integrity and student conduct.

“House warnings are reported by the house, not voted by the Ad Board, but they reported to the Ad Board so there's a record of them,” he said in a Wednesday interview.

The majority of the cases that go before the Ad Board, however, involve evaluating student petitions. Students must often request permission to study abroad, take a leave of absence, or make up missed exams. The Ad Board processes 1,690 petitions — and approved 1,574 of them — in 2018-2019.

The Ad Board approved 146 petitions for study abroad and 220 petitions for leaves of absence in 2018-2019 — both the lowest figures since the 2013-2014 academic year.

The College’s leave of absence procedures have come under increased scrutiny over the past year. A December 2018 study gave Harvard’s leave of absence policies a failing grade and criticized Harvard’s petition process for students returning to campus after going on leave.

Harvard is also the subject of a complaint filed with the United States Department of Education in March alleging its decision to place a former undergraduate on a mandatory leave of absence constituted disability-based discrimination.

Flehinger said he thinks the Ad Board’s data can help students and faculty better understand College procedures and regulations.

“I would like to have as much information out there as possible,” he said. “It's useful for students to know the reality of what's going on here.”

A separate body, the College’s Honor Council, adjudicates cases involving academic dishonesty. It took over that function from the Ad Board when it was established in 2015. The council typically releases a report of its activities in October of each year.

—Staff writer Delano R. Franklin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @delanofranklin_.

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