Oops, Harvard Actually Spied on Its Dean Even More Than We Thought

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Well, this is embarrassing. Three weeks after trying to contain a scandal involving spying on administrator's email accounts, Harvard just admitted to violating its own email policy in additional searches of a resident dean's email account. The details are a little bit nuanced, but to make a long story short, Harvard not only spied on its staff. It lied about it, too.

You might remember the first round of searches from last month, when the university made headlines for snooping on its own employees in an attempt to find the culprit who leaked confidential information about a cheating scandal that ultimately led to as many as 70 students leaving school. After a meeting on Tuesday night, The Harvard Crimson reported that Dean Hammonds told the faculty that she authorized a second round of searches of the resident dean's email accounts, including the faculty account that's off-limits.

This contradicts a previous statement about the affair. Up until now, Harvard maintained that it worked within the limitations of the its email privacy policy for staff which would have allowed for such a search. A separate policy for faculty accounts does not permit such searches. Resident deans have both accounts. Harvard searched both accounts, but only told the world about one of those searches until Tuesday night's meeting.

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Now we know that Harvard searched both accounts, violating its own privacy policy and making its earlier statements seem somewhat deceptive. Hammonds even insinuates that she withheld information. "Although I consulted with legal counsel, I did not inform Dean Smith about the two additional queries. This was a mistake," she said in a statement at Tuesday's faculty meeting. "I also regret the inaccuracies in our March 11 communication resulting from my failure to recollect the additional searches at the time of that communication." Another dean also admitted to knowing about the additional searches in March.

All this doesn't really change the status quo too much. The university is still doing a big investigation into its email surveillance policies, and those students who were forced to leave are still gone. The anonymous resident dean at the center of the whole scandal remains anonymous. However, this latest development does make Harvard look worse than they already did. But hey, worse things have happened.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.