Harvard Spied On Its Faculty

Administrators at Harvard University secretly accessed the email accounts of 16 of its deans last fall while looking for the source of a media leak, The Boston Globe (fake city, real newspaper) is reporting. Administrators spied specifically on deans who were involved with the investigation into widespread cheating and plagiarism that embarrassed the elite university last September. 125 students were implicated in the scandal that involved collaborating on essays and sharing test answers.

The deans weren't told beforehand that their email was being looked at, and only one was told about the spying after the fact. The administration plans on informing the rest of the deans later this week.

Professors at the school have the right to privacy when it comes to email, even if it's being done through a Harvard network. As non-teaching faculty, deans fall into a legal gray area in terms of whether Harvard had a right to spy on them:

"If reading the deans' email is really OK by the book, why didn't they just ask the deans who leaked the memo, threatening to read their email if no one came forward?" said Harry Lewis, a computer scientist and former dean of the college who helped draft its current email privacy policy for faculty. "Why not tell them what was being done if it was really an OK thing to do?"

Greg Morrisett, a Professor of Computer Science at Harvard, said that because of the possible overreach by the administration, a lot of the faculty are going to be "pissed off."