The Ivy League Harvard College apologised as it was embroiled in a fresh controversy over how it tried to find who leaked information about a cheating scandal to the media last year.
The oldest institution of higher learning in the US, the Harvard College - one of the two schools within Harvard University giving undergraduate degrees - founded in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, issued a partial apology as it came under fire for the way it handled a secret search of the e-mail accounts of 16 resident deans.
“A very narrow, careful, and precise subject-line search was conducted by the University’s IT department,” due “to concerns that other information — especially student information we have a duty to protect as private-was at risk,” it said in a statement.
The statement from Deans Michael D. Smith and Evelynn M. Hammonds stressed that the search was limited to administrative accounts, and that it did not involve a review of e-mail content.
The search successfully identified a resident dean, who had forwarded a confidential e-mail, according to CNN. However, after review, school officials determined the dean in question had committed “an inadvertent error and not an intentional breach” by sending the message to two students.
Other resident deans were not told of the search, which was first reported by The Boston Globe.
Last month, the school announced that more than half the students implicated in the cheating scandal had been required to withdraw for a time. Many others faced disciplinary probation and the remaining were cleared.