Harvard has finally retained some adult legal supervision to sort out its cheating-and-email-snooping fiasco. That’s the good news.
The bad news remains that the country’s most closely followed institution of higher education has already done damage to its valuable brand. The university’s clumsy reaction to the mess has made an embarrassing situation worse.
First, the latest headline: As reported by our colleagues at Bloomberg News, University President Drew Faust announced that David Barron, a professor at Harvard Law School, will head a new task force to develop recommendations on campus e-mail policy. Barron, a former journalist who went on to more respectable pursuits, including clerking for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and serving in the Justice Department during President Obama’s first term, is a noted expert on constitutional and administrative law. Faust said she would also ask Michael Keating, a leading Boston business litigator with the old-line firm Foley Hoag, to help sort out the situation.
The problem is that, at this late date, Harvard is still choosing task force members, rather than getting its story straight and focusing on the real issue at hand (which ain’t email policy).
Let’s review: Late last summer, news broke that 125 Harvard students were implicated in a cheating scandal stemming from collaboration on a final exam in a political science class reputed to be an easy “gut” course. More than half of the students were told to withdraw from the prestigious school for as much as a year.