Harvard Email Search Ran Deeper Than Previously Thought

An earlier assertion that there had only been one round of faculty email searches to find the source of leaks about last year’s Harvard cheating scandal has been proven false, The Harvard Crimson reports. Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds informed other faculty members that she authorized a second round of searches that targeted [...]

An earlier assertion that there had only been one round of faculty email searches to find the source of leaks about last year’s Harvard cheating scandal has been proven false, The Harvard Crimson reports. Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds informed other faculty members that she authorized a second round of searches that targeted only the one dean suspected most strongly of leaking information.

The first round targeted 16 resident deans associated with the College of Arts and Science, and both searches contradict the college’s faculty email privacy policy that requires the approvals of the dean and the University Office of the General Counsel before such a search can be undertaken. According to FAS Dean Michael D. Smith, he was not consulted prior to the search being initiated.

On March 11, Smith and Hammonds released a statement which said the searches were “limited to the Administrative accounts for the Resident Deans…as distinct from their individual Harvard email accounts.”

But on Tuesday, Hammonds doubled back on that as she read prepared remarks to a packed room of faculty in University Hall.

“Although I consulted with legal counsel, I did not inform Dean Smith about the two additional queries. This was a mistake. I also regret the inaccuracies in our March 11 communication resulting from my failure to recollect the additional searches at the time of that communication,” Hammonds said.

Hammonds wasn’t the only one addressing the meeting. A number of top administrators apologized to the school faculty, which was the first since the news broke in early March that the searches has been run. Although the main focus of the meeting was supposed to be revisions to the school’s honor code, discussion of the searches dominated the gathering, with administrators alternatively defending their actions and apologizing for them — and faculty members expressing anger and disappointment.

Speaking in turn at the start of the 90-minute meeting, University President Drew G. Faust, Smith, and Hammonds all acknowledged that the searches had been mishandled. Speaking in somber tones, Smith and Hammonds took full responsibility for the way the investigation was conducted.

The first set of searches only looked at staff accounts of resident deans which were not protected by the faculty email policy. Since resident deans are considered simultaneously college staff and faculty, access to the accounts didn’t run afoul of the privacy clause.

The searches were conducted to determine who had been the source of the media leak disclosing that Harvard was investigating allegations that a substantial number of students had cheated on the take-home final exam for a required Government course.

Thursday

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