After a cheating scandal thrust Harvard into the national spotlight in August, the university covertly accessed the email accounts of several of its staff members in an effort to locate media leaks, The Boston Globe reported Saturday.
The email accounts of 16 resident deans were searched last fall without the resident deans’ knowledge, and most resident deans remained unaware of the searches until this week.
Harvard central administrators informed only one resident dean of the searches after they discovered he had forwarded a confidential Aug. 16 email from Harvard’s Administrative Board — the disciplinary committee handling the cheating scandal — to a student he was advising, not knowing the email would end up in the hands of news outlets such as the Globe and the Harvard Crimson. The resident dean was not punished, one Harvard official told the Globe.
The electronic privacy of Harvard faculty members is protected under a Faculty of Arts and Sciences policy, except “in extraordinary circumstances such as legal proceedings and internal Harvard investigations.” The policy requires faculty members to be informed before any searches or, if circumstances prevent that, “at the earliest possible opportunity.” But resident deans are lecturers and dorm advisers rather than professors, and it is unclear whether they are covered by the FAS policy.
Greg Morrisett, a computer scientist who heads the FAS Standing Committee on Information Technology, told the Globe that many faculty are going to be “pissed off,” adding that he believes resident deans fall under the FAS policy.
Last summer, 125 Harvard students were accused of unauthorized collaboration on an “Intro to Congress” final last spring. The students began appearing before the Administrative Board last fall, and roughly half of the accused students have been forced to withdraw from the university, Harvard announced in February.