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Harvard Searched Employee E-Mail Looking for Press Leaks

March 10, 2013

By Cynthia Herbert :: 3:11 AM

Harvard faculty e-mail searched.Harvard University has admitted that it searched through the e-mail accounts and files of several employees last year while trying to discover who was leaking information to the media about a cheating scandal at the institution.

The University did not inform the employees that had their e-mail searched that it had done so until several months after the investigation had been completed. The search involved the e-mail accounts of 16 Harvard resident deans.

Resident deans serve a dual role on the Ivy League campus – both of University administrator and faculty member, as they have teaching responsibilities as well as administrative duties fulfilled by living in Harvard’s undergraduate dormitories and serving as student advisors. No resident deans, or any other employees, have been disciplined as a result of the cheating scandal.

In August of 2012, resident deans had been advised, through e-mail, how to counsel students who had been accused of cheating at the institution. Earlier reports claim that about√ā¬†√ā¬†half of all students enrolled in a large government class in the spring semester of 2012 had cheated in some fashion. The students either worked in groups, collaborated on a take-home exam, or√ā¬†plagiarized√ā¬†some√ā¬†materials.

The news of the e-mail search will likely cause consternation with Harvard’s faculty. The search itself seems to have been done in violation of the University’s electronic privacy policy. Although the University retains the right to search e-mail and electronic files to fulfill obligations of legal proceedings and investigations, they may not do so unless the faculty member has been notified of the search ahead of time. None of the 16 involved had any prior knowledge of the search.