Critics Call for Student Role on Ad Board

Part IV of a four-part series analyzing how successful the 2009-2010 reforms have been in making the Administrative Board’s disciplinary process more educational, transparent, and empowering for accused students. Part I, Part II, and Part III were published Oct. 23-25.

When Natasha faced disciplinary proceedings for a non-academic infraction at Harvard, she was questioned by two faculty members, both at least twice her age.

Natasha said that at her hearing, she was intimidated by what she perceived as aggressive questioning by her two interrogators, both of whom serve on the Administrative Board with other professors and administrators.

For Natasha, the presence of a third judge closer to her own age and status at Harvard would have eased her anxiety.

“Having a student on the subcommittee would have made me feel so much more comfortable, because I think a lot of the weirdness there is the power dynamic,” said Natasha, who requested that her name be changed because she did not want it known that she had been in disciplinary trouble at Harvard.


Harvard’s lack of student representation in its disciplinary body is unusual among Ivy League institutions—of the seven others, six offer at least an option for accused undergraduates to be judged by both faculty and students.

Three years ago, the committee charged with reforming the Ad Board suggested that Harvard should fall in line with its peers. In its 2009 report, the Committee to Review the Administrative Board recommended further discussion about creating a second board made up of both students and officials.

But without any formal discussion, the idea fell by the wayside.

This fall, as a massive cheating scandal revives dormant calls for a Harvard honor code, some say it is high time for the dropped proposal of an alternative board to be reconsidered.


Technically, the College has had a secondary disciplinary board populated by both students and faculty for a quarter of a century. But the Student Faculty Judiciary Board, designed to hear cases not covered by existing faculty legislation, has heard just one case since its 1987 inception.

But the alternative board proposed by the reform committee would have had a much wider jurisdiction, covering non-peer disputes, like cases of plagiarism caught by professors. It would have consisted of three students and four additional voting members.

Accused students would have had the opportunity to go before either the traditional Ad Board or the alternative board to have their cases heard. Under the proposal, peer disputes such as sexual assault cases would continue to be heard by faculty and administrators only.

In 2009 and 2010, Harvard adopted parts one and two of the reform committee’s three-part proposal, including changes to the size of the hearings and the penalties doled out to cheaters. Part three, which called for discussion of a board including students, was never addressed.

Jeff Neal, a spokesperson for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, wrote in an emailed statement that the


Recommended Articles