Harvard administrators apologized to faculty Tuesday after revealing Evelynn Hammonds, Dean of the College, authorized a second round of secret email searches without proper approval. After dozens of students were forced to withdraw from the College in the wake of the Introduction to Congress cheating scandal, the Harvard Crimson staff is pleading: “To rebuild trust, Hammonds must resign.”
The student newspaper published an editorial Thursday, calling the most recent revelation “shocking, disappointing and disheartening.” The Harvard Crimson writes:
Hammonds not only authorized the second round of searches without necessary permission of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith but also made a false statement to the press in which she and Smith said no additional searches had taken place.
The administration has been working to rebuild the trust of the community. Harvard President Drew Faust has asked Law School Professor David Barron to chair a task force that would be responsible for recommending guidelines about email privacy. She has also appointed an independent counsel to investigate the searches. But, a “roadblock” remains, according to the students, and that roadblock is Hammonds.
Although they commended Hammonds for apologizing and being well-intentioned, the Harvard Crimson claims “it must be clear to every member of this community that actions have consequences”–as was taught to the students implicated in the cheating scandal. The staff writes:
The manner in which these searches were conducted damages Harvard as an institution and as a community. Harvard should be associated with great research, talented professors, and the highest level of academic excellence. Instead, these new revelations keep the focus on the cheating scandal and its regrettable aftermath. Although only a handful of people’s accounts were searched, the nature of the searches and the failure to adhere to policy damages all of us. Students and faculty must have confidence in their administrators, and in the case of Hammonds, we do not.
The community started chiming in, in the comments section, pointing to Andy Samberg’s Class Day Speech from last year, in which he jokingly called Hammonds a liar. Others spoke up for Hammonds, saying, “There really is no violation of trust involved.”
Hammonds said she conducted the search out of concern the names of students implicated in the cheating scandal would be revealed. That said, commenters have commended Hammonds for keeping students’ privacy safe and never denying allegations. Hammonds, Smith and Faust all acknowledged earlier this week the searches had been “mishandled.”
Should Hammonds be forced to resign? No. Although the situation was, indeed, mishandled, comparing her actions to that of students is extreme. She was taking precautionary measures; the students were cheating on a take-home exam. As Jon Stewart humorously said it best: “Is this Harvard or the University of Phoenix? They can use the Internet, and they still cheated off each other.”
Perhaps my mind will change following the investigation but, for now, Harvard should be able to rebuild the community’s trust–with Hammonds.