Harvard dean asked to resign in wake of email controversy

In an editorial published last week by The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds was asked to resign after her admission that she ordered unauthorized searche

Howard Manly | 4/11/2013, noon

“I have to model that behavior for him,” she said, “This is what I’ve tried to do…”

Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree Jr. said the recent email searches were “a clear exception” to the school’s privacy policies in which electronic transmissions were “supposedly confidential.”

“People are watching,” Ogletree said, pointing out that school officials were now reviewing the school’s policies to insure that they are “clear and unequivocal” and that “a similar invasion doesn’t happen again.”

The privacy policy states that administration can search faculty members’ electronic records “in extraordinary circumstances such as legal proceedings and internal Harvard investigations.”

Such searches require the notification of the faculty member “unless circumstances make prior notification impossible, in which case the faculty member will be notified at the earliest possible opportunity.”

President Faust said that a new faculty task force had been formed to develop recommendations for a new email policy by the end of the Fall 2013 term.

But that may be too late to save Hammonds’ job as dean.

“Although only a handful of people’s accounts were searched,” The Crimson editorial stated, “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.”

Because Hammonds is the first African American dean of Harvard College, some faculty members are trying to assert that sanctions against her are racially motivated. But the racialization of the incident seems not to be gaining much support at this time, according to faculty members offended by Hammonds’ conduct.