Sunday, February 03, 2013

Ad Board Update

We've finally got an update on the Government 1310 situation.  As reported by the Crimson, FAS Dean Mike Smith sent out an email Friday, where he wrote that
“somewhat more than half” of cases heard by the College’s Administrative Board last fall resulted in forced withdrawals
and many of the other half resulted in disciplinary probation.  While this includes more than Gov 1310, given the size of the case, that probably represents the bulk of the withdrawals.

On the positive side, the university tried to limit any financial damage to students given the long time frame required to reach decisions, rolling it back for tuition purposes as though they had to withdraw September 30.  It seems like they could have decided and announced that previously, but at least they did it.

For better or worse, I suspect we won't be getting substantially more details given the (appropriate) confidentiality with which these cases are handled.  I would like there to be some way that more could come out of this, though it appears that will be indirect.  A fairly recently-developed Committee on Academic Integrity (which does pre-date the Gov 1310 situation) will be making recommendations on issues such as whether Harvard should institute an honor code and how faculty should structure assessments.  I'm skeptical that these will get to the deeper issues -- what we mean by cheating (especially in the Internet age) and whether the faculty have a consistent and clear policy about it, what leads students to cheat, and what the role of the University is in developing morality in the student body.  At the same time, I'm sure these issues are much closer to the surface now than they have been in the past, and are discussed more amongst faculty and students, in unofficial settings.

Further update:  I highly recommend Harry Lewis's latest (and last?) post on the issue, and the discussion in Harvard Magazine, which includes the full text of Dean Smith's letter.  

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