Harvard University officials disclosed on Tuesday that secret searches of e-mail accounts following a cheating scandal were more extensive than previously acknowledged, according to reports by The Boston Globe and Harvard Magazine.
The new revelations came during a tense meeting of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences on Tuesday afternoon. Harvard had previously acknowledged conducting subject-line searches of the administrative e-mail accounts of 16 “resident deans,” who live in undergraduate residential houses, serve as student advisers, and have some teaching duties in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, or FAS. Resident deans also serve on the Administrative Board, which investigated the cheating allegations, and the initial search reportedly was seeking to discover who had leaked a board document that later appeared in The Harvard Crimson.
But at Tuesday’s meeting, Evelynn M. Hammonds, who is dean of Harvard College and chair of the Administrative Board, acknowledged that she had authorized two additional investigations of the e-mail accounts of a resident dean who had, perhaps inadvertently, forwarded a board e-mail to two students.
Those investigations looked at subject lines in the resident dean’s administrative and FAS e-mail accounts to determine whether the dean had had contact with two students who shared information with the Crimson. No e-mails were opened, Ms. Hammonds said, and no content was searched. Ms. Hammonds told faculty members present that she had made “serious mistakes” and regretted the anxiety and distress that had caused.
Also at the meeting, Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s president, said she had determined that the university’s policies regarding electronic communications were “highly inadequate.” She announced that she was asking an outside lawyer to review the e-mail investigations and determine whether all the facts were known. She also announced the appointment of a task force to develop recommendations on e-mail privacy.