Friday, October 24, 2008

On the Ad Board (A Harvard-centric Post)

The Harvard Crimson had an editorial earlier this week on the Ad Board, the administrative board that implements the rules of the college for undergraduates, and which I served on for a year-and-a-half, ending last June. (I happen to read the Crimson semi-regularly as copies are left in the lounge areas of our building.)

The piece was just so over-the-top negative, and blatantly factually wrong (it's hard to find a stated fact in the text that is actually correct), that it makes this season's political ads look good by comparison. So I took it upon myself to respond.

I suppose only my Harvard readers might care about this, but here's the editorial, and the text of my response is below. We'll see next week if the Crimson publishes it.

UPDATE: The Crimson did print my letter here. (It changed a few things, making it shorter and a bit more generic, but the spirit is there.) Also, since it seems from the comments that many people are simply uninformed, let me point to the Student Guide for the Ad Board; I'd encourage people with questions (or complaints) to read that first, as it gives a lot of detail about how the Ad Board works.

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Bad Board, No; Bad Editorial, Yes

To the Crimson editorial staff:

Having finished a year-and-a-half of service as a faculty member of the Ad Board last June, I was shocked by the opinion “Bad Board” that appeared in the Crimson on October 22. First, it was simply riddled with factual errors. For example, contrary to your statement that resident deans are “outranked” by the faculty, in fact there are only two or three faculty members on the Ad Board at any time, and over a dozen resident deans; we all get equal votes. Even if we didn’t take the resident deans seriously as you suggest (and we do), they could simply outvote us. As another example, contrary to your statement, in disciplinary cases students are always allowed to present their side of the story, both in written form and by attending an Ad Board meeting, where students can make a statement and, if they choose, respond to questions. I could go on, but there are so many additional factual errors that it would take a letter much longer than the original editorial to go through them all.

Second, your editorial fundamentally misunderstands the Ad Board’s setup and purpose. You complain that students cannot hire an attorney for an Ad Board hearing. That is because the Ad Board is not a legal institution, like a court or the police, but an academic institution, to administrate the rules of the college. The Ad Board’s purpose is fundamentally education, not punishment. As you quote, the Ad Board is “primarily concerned for the educational and personal growth of undergraduates, both as individuals and as members of the Harvard community.” Sometimes, when a rule is broken, a punishment must be given, but we view that as a learning process for the student. Attorneys should not be a part of that learning process, much in the same way you can’t hire a lawyer to complain about or negotiate for a better grade in my class. (Please don’t try.)

Finally, your article includes what I would call errors not of fact but of spirit. You say “rulings are clear before it [the Ad Board] convenes”. That’s a surprise to me, as I regularly spent multiple hours in these meetings each week listening to and deliberating cases. Punishments are not, as you say, “one-size-fits-all”; we discuss the appropriate response for each case, based on the rules of the Faculty and the needs of the individual student. We take seriously both these rules and these needs, with the goal of best serving both the students that come before us and the larger Harvard community.

I understand that, as you say, going before the Ad Board is intimidating and terrifying for a student. They are generally there because there is an accusation that they have broken a rule of the College, and there may be consequences. I know of no system we could possibly set up where that wouldn’t be intimidating and terrifying. But students should know going in that the Ad Board will listen to them, fairly, and that no punishment is given lightly.

Michael Mitzenmacher '91

Professor of Computer Science

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your post does not address what seem to be the most serious flaws of the Ad Board process: "When students are called before the Ad Board, the deck is clearly stacked against them. Students are not allowed to hear the testimony against them and cannot submit evidence on their own behalf. Their sole representatives are resident deans, who are plagued by severe conflicts of interest, as deans are often asked to function as both advocate and prosecutor in disciplinary inquiries."

Furthermore, your nonchalant dismissal of the idea that the Ad Board is a legal institution does not hold water. Just as the Ad Board assigns punishment, so does the legal system at large try to rehabilitate and educate. Both are to strive for objectivity. In a broad sense, the purpose of the legal system is to maintain order, fairness, and balance; are these not the purposes of the Ad Board as well?

The comparison with grade-grubbing is equally absurd: grades are by their nature assessments which
(a.) are unilateral not multilateral and hence are expected to incorporate a degree of subjectivity,
(b.) certainly individually do not carry anywhere approaching the same weight as the potential consequences of an Ad Board meeting, and
(c.) typically involve a nearly completely open procedure where students receive feedback on assignments and participation and have the opportunity to attend office hours over the course of a whole term

This last point is precisely the antithesis of the main problem with the Ad Board: the lack of openness and transparency. It's no wonder anyone then makes assumptions about the Board's nature as a "kangaroo court".

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

Anonymous 1:

The first paragraph you cite from the editorial is, as I stated in my letter, filled with factual errors. Students can submit evidence on their own behalf; they in most cases hear all the testimony and see all the evidence against them (there are some tricky situations involving peer disputes, where exact transcripts are not recorded, but they certainly get the information relating to the charges and the chance to provide their own information -- Jay Ellison has written a longer letter giving more exact details which will hopefully make the Crimson), and resident deans do not serve as either prosecutor or advocate, but as officers of and information sources for the Board.

Your argument regarding the Ad Board as legal institution does not seem to have a point. You seem to be saying that since the Ad Board has some similarities to a court, it should have the same rules as a court, including the right for an attorney as a defense. I simply disagree, and you fail to respond to the distinction between the Ad Board being part of an academic institution, vs. being part of the legal system. Having spent many days in court as an expert witness, I can clearly state I wouldn't want Harvard (and specifically its Ad Board process) to become more like a court; why exactly do you?

I'm also unclear about what you mean by "lack of openness and transparency" in the Ad Board. The Ad Board is very transparent. The rules are clearly laid out in Harvard's handbooks; the resident dean and other officers of the university strive to make clear the process and possible outcomes to the students, both in written documentation and especially when a student has a case before the Board. The fact that the proceedings are closed -- to protect student privacy and maintain confidentiality, as would be required by any similar process -- does not mean the Ad Board itself is not open and transparent.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. I agree. In most cases, anything you cannot fully control might be terrifying. What the editorial seems to be saying is that there is no way to game the system -- if you have a problem, you cannot throw money at it, or hire a good lawyer, or employ the Chewbacca defense, etc. Things depend on the case and on how badly you screwed up, not how much you can do after the fact. That alone is sufficient to give students the perception that Ad Board decisions are predetermined.

Anonymous said...

I can understand why the Ad Board doesn't want lawyers involved, but I do think the no lawyers rule sounds terrible. Someone who has been accused of misbehavior typically feels under a lot of pressure (regardless of whether the accusation is true) and is not necessarily calm and collected enough to make the best case for innocence. Having an independent advisor there to help, or even just to provide moral support, can be absolutely crucial. The current Ad Board rules come across as saying that they prefer students to feel as vulnerable and intimidated as possible. I know that's not the intended purpose, but that doesn't change the perception.

The differences between the American legal system and the Ad Board come from two sources: Americans don't trust the government or the courts to work perfectly without oversight, and they want strong rules for the protection of the innocent. By contrast, the Ad Board announces that of course they always have the best interests of the students at heart and that the innocent have nothing to fear. Both may even be true, but it still sounds bad.

Right now, many (maybe even most) Harvard undergraduates don't trust the Ad Board. Unfortunately, this perception will be tough to change, because the lack of transparency is basically required by student privacy rules. However, the current arguments in support of the Ad Board rules don't help.

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

Anonymous #4:

From the FAS handbook.

"If it is likely that the Board will take formal disciplinary action, the student may choose to appear at the Board personally when the case is presented, and, if so, may choose to have another officer of the University with an appointment in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences attend as his or her personal adviser." (Officers here includes dorm tutors, or coaches, not just professors.)

Further, students are given time to write a statement for the Ad Board before the Ad Board meets, which provides them a clear opportunity to make their case without (or prior to) the additional stress of appearing before the board.

Anonymous said...

I should have been clearer, but that's what I meant by an independent advisor: someone not employed by Harvard. What's the motivation for restricting it to officers of the university? Anyone could easily find an advisor not affiliated with Harvard (a friend, relative, or religious leader, not to mention a lawyer), but not everyone has a sufficiently trusting relationship with an officer of the university.

My guess is that the motivation is two things:

(1) Ad Board proceedings are secret because people involved may learn private information about students (including students other than the accused). Only officers of the university can be trusted with thi information.

(2) Outside advisors may be much more disruptive or confrontational than officers of the university would be.

These are both reasonable arguments. However, they certainly can sound bad to students: "No, you can't bring an outside advisor, because the proceedings are secret and your advisor might prove uncooperative!"

As for the written statement, that's of course a good thing. However, it is sometimes hard to make a written case in advance. Before actually talking with people, it can be difficult to anticipate what approach will be most convincing or which particular issues they judge to be most crucial. In practice, the students presumably learn a lot at the actual Ad Board proceedings (if only about how the Ad Board views things), and their defense should be able to take that into account on the fly.

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

Anonymous #6:

The motivations you provide (secrecy, the need to restrict to Harvard affiliates for various reasons), I would imagine, are indeed a strong reason of why the rules are the way the are.

For the written statement, the student can obtain the assistance of their resident dean to find what is expected or how to best present themselves, or whomever else they desire, although it is ultimately their statement. And your final paragraph suggests that you don't understand the format of the proceedings (as described in, for example, the Guide for Students for the Ad Board). There isn't a discussion as such with the student; students can offer a written statement, they can make an oral opening statement, they can answer questions, and they can make a final statement. Generally, there's not much room for dynamic determination of "which approach will be most convincing". As stated in the FAS Handbook and the Guide to the Ad Board, we expect students to be honest and forthcoming with their answers and the facts in our community, and hopefully to recognize if they've acted inappropriately.

David said...

Some of the later anonymous' reply strike me as questions of the variety, "Why can't I only affiliate with Harvard when it is convenient and solely exploit my membership in its community to my benefit."

AnonProf said...

Michael, I confess I don't find your defense of the Ad Board especially convincing. I'm not personally familiar with the details of the Ad Board, but going just on the arguments presented here, I too would be concerned about fundamental issues of fairness.

There are several issues:

(1) The right to confront your accusers, to see all of the evidence against you before the trial, and to select an advocate to speak on your behalf are fundamental due process rights. They are fundamental to our legal system, and not just because "the law says so", but for a very good reason: history has shown that these due process provisions play a crucial role in protecting the innocent from false accusations and ensuring that justice is done. To say that the Ad Board doesn't need to provide these due process protections because it isn't a legal proceeding simply misses the point. The point is that history has proven that those due process protections play a crucial role in ensuring a just outcome -- we have a long history showing that in the absence of due process protections, injustices happen. Harvard's failure to consistently provide those due process protections seems like it should raise serious concerns about whether the Harvard Ad Board can be counted upon to serve justice appropriately.

(2) You say that "in most cases" students can see or hear the evidence against them. To my thinking, that's simply not good enough. I find it troubling that a disciplinary board would issue serious sanctions without allowing the accused to see all of the evidence against of them.

(3) Do students get to see all evidence sufficiently in advance of the hearing to prepare their response? I haven't seen a statement either way. If not -- if evidence can be sprung upon them for the first time at the hearing -- that's a serious flaw in the process.

(4) You say that students don't need the right to select an advocate to speak on their behalf. You say that students can always choose a Harvard officer to represent them, but I would not consider that an adequate substitute.

Harvard officers are inherently conflicted. If I were accused, I would want and insist on the right to have an advocate of my own choosing speak for me, and one who serves only my interests -- not one who might be tempted to pull his/her punches, e.g., because he/she must continue to work with the other members of the Ad Board after the case is over and feels pressure to be "collegial". That's a conflict of interest.

I realize you might be tempted to ask, Why can't students just speak on their own behalf? Some of us are not the most eloquent speakers, especially when put on the spot in a highly stressful and emotional situation. I am a successful professor at a university, yet as a student I would not have felt comfortable in such a position (I would not feel comfortable even now) -- I have little confidence in my own ability to be articulate enough to present my case clearly. I expect I would want to have an advocate to speak for me.

(5) You suggest that hearings must be confidential to protect student privacy. I would be curious to find out what happens when a student signs a waiver of privacy and asks for the hearing to be open. I've heard too many examples of universities and other institutions that initially say that they're keeping their hearings confidential to protect the privacy of the accused, but when the accused waives any privacy interests and asks for them to be opened up, the institution still refuses to open up the hearing.

(6) In general, the attitude seems to be that students ought to trust the Ad Board to do the right thing, because the members of the Ad Board are good people. Michael, I would suggest that as a past Ad Board member, you are particularly likely to find such arguments attractive. However, I find them unpersuasive. Unjust outcomes can occur even though all parties believe they are acting in good faith and with everyone's best interests in mind.

(7) It's worth keeping in mind that there is an inherent power imbalance here: students are at the bottom of the power hierarchy. Those at the bottom of the power hierarchy are those who most especially need protections. Senior professors have very powerful tenure protections -- just think how hard it is to revoke tenure from a tenured professor -- but students do not have comparable protections.

Bottom line: I don't have the same level of familiarity with the Ad Board as you do, but going just by the arguments I see presented here, I wonder if you're dismissing these concerns too quickly.

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

AnonProf --

I question your fundamental assumptions. You are starting from the premise that in the Ad Board, like in our legal system, there is one side whose "job" it is to obtain a prosecution. The reason in the law we have the due process protections you describe is, in my understanding, precisely because the power of the state is leveled against the accused -- in the form of a prosecutor. That is not the case with the Ad Board. There is no score at the end of the day -- have we reached a certain number of prosecutions? -- nor anyone whose job it is to obtain a prosecution. The Ad Board system is not designed to be a conflict, but to determine what occurred in order to apply the rules. I think we'd all be very, very happy if we didn't have to set a punishment for anyone. I should point out that your goal of setting up a system more like a legal system would inevitably lead to a system where there WAS an explicit conflict, where someone at the university would have the job of prosecuting students. That's both not the system I want for our educational system, and it runs the risk of being less fair to students, even with protections you suggest.

By the way, as an example of the sort of protection the Ad Board has now, when a student is accused by a Professor of cheating (or plagiarism or a similar charge), the Professor sends a letter explaining the charge to the Ad Board, provides whatever evidence is available, and then has NOTHING to do at the proceedings. The faculty member doesn't come speak, doesn't combat the student testimony, and doesn't have influence on the proceedings. As a professor, I'm happy with this scheme, as it simplifies matters for me. But more importantly, it avoids this adversarial scenario that you seem so dead-set on assuming exists. Should professors and students be testifying against each other, face-to-face, at the Ad Board proceedings? That seems to be what you're suggesting. That doesn't seem good for the students...

With regard to other points, for point (2) I specifically said the special case was that in peer-to-peer disputes, we do not take transcripts. That is the only case I know of where a student wouldn't see the exact evidence. (Note that in this case, the Ad Board doesn't have this evidence either -- that is, we don't have a transcript for ourselves.)

With regard to (3), students see all evidence in advance.

With regard to (4), advocates don't speak before the Ad Board, the student speaks, so I don't think the issue of bad feeling toward an advocate is ever an issue. Also, keep in mind, the process is not adversarial, as I've stated. We don't get points for convictions.

My experience with the Ad Board is that eloquence is not correlated with outcome for students. We apply the rules according to the facts, and we're as a body quite experienced with student eloquence. It's a valid point to make on your side, but it doesn't hold up in practice.

With respect to (5), I'm not a lawyer, so you'll have to check with Harvard's lawyers, but there are strong requirements according to the law to what can and can't be made open regarding student records. It makes sense to me that this is the safest system from that standpoint.

With regard to (6), forgive me, but oh please, the old trope of "unjust outcomes could occur". Yes, unjust outcomes can occur in any system, including our legal system on which you seem to want to model our Ad Board procedures. Do you have any actual evidence that changes you suggest would make things better? Do you have evidence that injustices are occurring at all with the current system?

Finally, with respect to (7), we're back to my point. You somehow seem to think a more "legal" system, where there is an EXPLICIT conflict between sides, would somehow be better for students. I disagree, both in terms of the educational principles that underlie the Ad Board, and in terms of protecting their interests from the "power of the faculty" (a funny concept) which, in fact, is not currently aligned against them.

I encourage you (and all the faculty) to read the Ad Board materials, including the Guide for Students.

Anonymous said...

Several of the people posting here seem to be working under the assumption that there is a "Harvard side" versus a "student side". From my experience with similar boards elsewhere, this is not at all how they work.

Yes, there are two sides "what the prof claims to have happened" versus "what the student claims to have happened". The board acts as an arbiter and has no particular vested interest on either side winning.

This is different from other university conflicts such as tenure and dismissal in which there is an administration side and a professor side.

Jess Austin said...

Thanks for responding to the editorial.

One of the allegations it makes is that punishments are "one-size-fits-all". I suppose I didn't know dozens of ad-boarded students as an undergrad, but those I knew were either asked to leave for a year or were asked to leave permanently. This data seems in line with the editorial. Does the university publish any statistics that would rebut such anecdotal evidence? Or does this not constitute a valid concern?

I'm glad to hear that the proceedings are meant to be educational rather than adversarial, but could you support that contention a bit? Without being specific enough to compromise privacy, what administrative actions other than student sanctions have resulted from Ad Board proceedings? If the only result of Ad Board actions are that students either are or are not punished, it would seem that we are missing out on some educational opportunities. On the other hand, if we can point to a set of initiatives that have affected the student experience, and which had some basis in wisdom gained through the Ad Board, that would forcefully contradict some of the natural suspicions of those not privy to the closed proceedings.

To my mind, that secrecy is the primary obstacle you have in encouraging those outside the administration to trust the Ad Board. Whether we consider the NSA or some tiny municipal oversight panel, if proceedings are closed (even if for excellent reasons), they aren't trusted. I say this in a positive, not normative, sense. If the Ad Board as a body cares about perceptions, perhaps it could be more public in its reporting.

As an aside to the last anonymous poster (and why does everyone need anonymity? are you all current undergrads?), it seems a bit naive to think that no Ad Board members could have vested interests. Professors and administrators have substantial interest in their own and each others' reputation. Each accusation of cheating with which the Ad Board disagrees is bound to harm a professor's reputation. Please note that I implicitly trust anyone serving on the Ad Board to overlook minor personal interest and to recuse herself in the case of substantial personal interest.

Thank you again, Prof. Mitzenmacher, for writing on this topic.

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

Jess,

Most every answer you seek -- and perhaps all of them -- are already available in the Guide for Students for the Ad Board, available at www.college.harvard.edu/academics/adboard/student_guide.pdf, and easily findable with Google. Really, it's not that the answers you want are hidden -- it just seems students don't bother to look at the information made available to them. Of course, most student won't ever see the Ad Board, so that's understandable, but I'd rather if students are going to complain they make themselves informed first.

For example (responding to your first paragraph), this document contains toward the end stats for 2007-2008, showing the numbers for various outcomes, including scratch, take no action, admonish, and probation -- none of which require leaving Harvard. Maybe you haven't heard as much about these other outcomes since Ad Board meetings are confidential, and students who go to the Ad Board generally don't talk about it. I should note that being required to withdraw for 1 year is standard for academic misconduct such as plagiarism, and that's perhaps why it's most heard of, although that can potentially vary in extreme circumstances. Having students withdraw permanently is extremely, extremely rare -- such measures as far as I know generally require a vote of the full faculty.

If you read the guide (now responding to your second paragraph), you'll see that other specific educational administrative actions to help students can include required alcohol counseling or a required workshop on proper use of citations. More generally, an Ad Board action can serve as a starting point for conversations between a student and their resident dean (or another Harvard officer) regarding issues that may be troubling the student at Harvard, including for example depression, which can help a student seek help they need.

So, responding to your third paragraph, while individual meetings and outcomes are necessarily closed, there's more information on the Ad Board than you might have known about. This whole "secrecy" thing is, in my opinion, overstated. Again, confidentiality is a requirement for this body, but the process is really quite open.

Finally, for your last paragraph, I'm afraid I think you're the one sounding a bit naive. A professor's reputation depends so negligibly (I would say not at all) on whether the Ad Board doesn't agree with them on an accusation of plagiarism that your argument doesn't hold up. Indeed, as I've mentioned in earlier comments, the entire setup of the system is designed to remove the professor from the process as quickly and easily as possible.

Thank you for your comment, and I hope my response was helpful.

Jess Austin said...

Very helpful, thanks.

Craig Partridge said...

So my experience with the Administrative Board was indirect (seeing fellow students' experiences) and is now 25 years old. But it was clear at the time that the essential feature of the Ad Board process that the student's spokesperson was a dean was problematic

While the Ad Board materials state

"The role of the resident dean is to present to the Board a full summary of the facts of any petition or case, making certain the student’s 'voice' is heard."

There was plenty of evidence that equally loud in the process was the voice of the dean presenting. So the presenting dean was central to the result of the process. Case in point, freshmen given probation late in spring could get the probation ended in early weeks of the fall term because they had a new advocate (senior tutor). And while one could change representatives, there was no information that would help you find the right representative (indeed, in my day, there was a warning story, likely apocryphal of a student who, seeking a better representative, chose a worse one).

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

Craig,

Since your experience with the Ad Board was indirect, anecdotal, and dated by 25 years, I'm hoping you won't mind if I suggest people should discount it heavily when considering potential problems with the body.

Craig Partridge said...

Hi Michael:

I think dismissal is ignoring a couple of key points
(and frankly, taking the easy approach).

I thought carefully about submitting. And I submitted because, after reading the Ad Board materials in use today, the problem still seemed to exist. (And I believe the word "anecdotal" is malicious -- I personally knew the students, and the deans involved -- and it is very hard to discuss in more detail without violating what I believe is a student's right to do something dumb 25 years ago and have it go away -- I realize as a Ad Board participant, you have similar limitations).

I also submitted because some members of today's Ad Board are the same folks who were on the Ad Board in my day....

Thanks!

Craig

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

Craig,

Then I'll simply have to disagree with you.

Students have ample opportunity to present themselves and their case to the full board.

The resident dean, at a case, recites the facts as they understand them, including a summary of the comments given by the student, but the student individually will be heard.

The sort of thing you're talking about -- different dates on probation -- can occur for simple administrative simplicity. (Probation is generally done until the end of some semester, except in rare cases.) The main issue the the giving of probation itself, which sets the class of punishment, and is a marker if there are further issues with the student. So while small variations in the time of probation may occur to streamline administrative processes (for us and for the student) that's not, in my mind, a serious problem.

I could go on, but now we're just getting arcane.

Anonymous said...

I can speak from recent experience with the Admin Board within the last 1-4 years. The Dean involved in my friends case did not give good counsel and my friend was too scared to ask for another advisor because that Dean appeared so upset at the mention of another representative that my friend feared this Dean would speak against them unfairly.
Furthermore my friend while out on leave of absence applied for a job and did not say per Dean's advice why they were taking leave. The compnay which was extraordinarily favorable to my friend suddenly turned cold and refused to speak with him/her after contacting Harvard.
The board states it's purpose is to be educable not punitive but this accusation that my friend was not allowed to fully defend will follow their transcript for the rest of their life affecting graduate school and early jobs.
I saw my friends paper and can categorically state she/he was not plagiarizing but she/he will never have the chance to argue this.
When you state the student has lots of opportunity to defend themself, you do not give all the facts, just enough to twist your defence, in fact the student is only permitted the briefest of opening statements and are instructed it must be kept extremely short. If a question is not posed then they have no opportunity to verbally address certain information. They may only speak if asked a question. At my friends review she/he was asked only two questions and both were superfluous and shallow indicating no-one had much interest in really knowing. They gave the impression by their lack of questions and interest that they had already made their decision.
To have a permanent bad mark on your record is the result of a punitive system, one which shows no grace for misunderstanding, mistake, error or even if a student did plagiarize it does not allow them to put the bad choice behind them and make a fresh start. Unlike the Harvard professors who plagarize..and are not penalised. Double standards for professor s and students. I agree with the person who wrote the deck is stacked and have seen this to be factually so.

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

Anon #19:

Your information does not match any experience I know or am aware of.

First, if your friend had wanted another representative, the Resident Dean of their house would have found an alternate and not have been involved in the case. Given that it was a plagiarism case, the RD would, I assume, not have had specific knowledge or evidence regarding the purported act, so their opinion would not have had impact on the outcome.

Second, you're simply incorrect about a student's ability to provide a defense. A student sees their case write-up BEFORE THEY COME TO THE BOARD, and are given the opportunity to WRITE A FULL RESPONSE prior to the board before the meeting, as well as make any opening and closing statement they wish to address any specific point they feel needs to be addressed. I have seen statements that have gone on for several pages. I've also heard opening/closing statements that went on quite long (10+ minutes). Your statement that they are only allowed to respond to a question verbally is, quite simply, factually incorrect.

Students are not instructed that their opening statements must be kept extremely short. Generally, however, it is good advice for someone appearing before the Ad Board to not repeat in detail what is already in their written statement (we have all read it), or to speak at length about issues irrelevant to the case. That is simple courtesy; the Ad Board generally has multiple cases and additional business to handle, and while we of course would like to hear any information a student feels is important, and always allow time for them to present it, a student simply repeating information is not helpful.

(I can verify that, in my time in the Ad Board, a student was never cut off while making a statement of any kind, even at times when, in my opinion, quite frankly the student was no longer providing information relevant to the case.)

As far as Harvard is concerned, a student required to withdraw because of plagiarism (or similar issues) is given a fresh start on their return. There is a notation on the student's transcript; that is not incompatible with a fresh start.

You say "I saw my friends paper and can categorically state she/he was not plagiarizing but she/he will never have the chance to argue this." I'm not sure how you can state so clearly your friend was not plagiarizing, and encourage you to consider that perhaps you are too emotionally connected to your friend to judge properly. I can state that your friend had the chance to present any argument or evidence they desired to the Ad Board, and I would like it to be clear to all students who might come before the Ad Board that they should make use of their opportunity to present their case. We do not pre-decide anything; we want to hear the facts and decide accordingly.

But you should keep in mind that occasionally students slip, and, in such cases, the job of the Ad Board is to enforce the rules of the college, for the betterment of the entire Harvard community.

Anonymous said...

Ad Board is so bad.

Anonymous said...

my husband worked as board member for a while, the truth is that the board had already made their decision before meeting the students and they don't listen to the students. The Harvard professors who plagarize..and are not penalised. Double standards for professors and students, this is their power.