Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More Trouble at Harvard

Harvey Silvergate, a lawyer who serves as the current Board chairman of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and his two research assistants have a chilling analysis of events at Harvard. The situation began last year when over a hundred students were caught cheating on a final exam. If true, that is bad.

During the investigation, however, an internal memo discussing possible punishments for the students was leaked. That is not good.

Then, according to Suilvergate, the head of the Administrative Board (Ad Board) at Harvard launched an internal witch hunt, including searching the email messages of all of Harvard's resident deans. Silvergate notes that Harvard's
complicated and contradictory codes and classifications, rife with ambiguity, put immense power into the hands of administrators to exact revenge against subordinates who cross them. That is how, in an astonishing act of institutional cannibalism, Harvard’s resident deans found themselves victimized by the same disciplinary apparatus of which they themselves are a part.
When caught having done the investigation, Harvard claimed to be protecting the students, even though the original leak had mentioned no individual cases or students by name.
those familiar with Harvard’s disciplinary structure understand full-well that what the secrecy protects is not the students but the administrators themselves, who run a retrograde disciplinary system in which facts and due process matter little and administrative power is everything.
So it is that
A student going public about his own disciplinary hearing commits an independent offense that can get him thrown out of school. Yet the Ad Board maintains the fiction that the secrecy—politely dubbed “confidentiality”—is for the protection of the student. But at Harvard, as everywhere else, secrecy is rarely for the benefit of those who have to endure the exercise of unrestrained power; rather, it protects those who exercise such power.
I draw a distinction here between confidentiality as it exists in the Church and how it might exist in a university. In the Church, the repentance process is protected by confidentiality because it might be difficult for people to finish the repentance process, which enables people to come back to full faith and confidence, if their sins were made public. A university is not the Church. The same conditions do not apply particularly since the idea of repentance is not widely condoned in the academy. Thus those trying to argue from a secular academic position cannot use the repentance model of the Church for the university.

Silvergate, whose organization monitors hundreds of schools including BYU, draws the following conclusions:
The Harvard email search scandal is only the latest demonstration of the power of Harvard’s administrators and lawyers over the faculty and staff, and should be a wake-up call to spur a rebellion against the unholy trends destroying liberal arts institutions in Cambridge and all over the country.
Chances are that this latest student and faculty reaction against the draconian and disrespectful measure engaged in by university administrators will fade—but it is only a matter of time until the next invasion of faculty and student prerogatives by academia’s new overlords.
So administration is supposed to protect students from faculty abuses, and such can exist, but who protects people from abuses by administration?