Harvard University in Hot Water Over Secret Photographs


Faculty and students at Harvard University are none too pleased with the Ivy League school for secretly taking photographs of over 2,000 undergraduate students in 10 lecture halls during the spring semester.

The photographs were taken as part of an experiment that was being conducted to gauge lecture attendance. Faculty not involved learned of the study during a meeting on Tuesday and quickly reported it the student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson.

Computer science professor, Harry Lewis was the first to approach the university’s administrators about the photographs after hearing of it from two of his colleagues. Lewis told The Boston Globe on Wednesday, “You should do studies only with the consent of the people being studied.”

The administrators at Harvard University claim that the reason they chose not to inform teachers and students of the experiment was to prevent any biases from occurring and corrupting the study. During the study, which was performed by Harvard’s Initiative for Learning and Teaching, consisted of pictures being taken every minute and computer software was then used to count the occupied and unoccupied seats.

Despite the experiment taking place during last spring’s semester, professors who had their lectures monitored weren’t informed until August when all involved gave their permission for the data to be used. The students, however, were not informed of the study and the images were ultimately destroyed.

Privacy policies have been a topic of discussion at Harvard before and President Drew Faust says that this will be a case reviewed. Harvard University has a special panel that is tasked with overseeing issues involving electronic communication policies.

Faust told The Crimson, “I indeed do take very seriously the important questions that this incident raises.”

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