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Harvard secretly searched dean's email in search of cheating evidence

Email accounts of sixteen deans were searched as central administrators looked for a media leak regarding cheating scandal.

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Harvard University reportedly searched the email accounts of sixteen residential deans over a media leak linked to last year's cheating scandal, leading to questions regarding employee and academic privacy. (Robert Spencer/AFP/Getty Images)

Harvard University secretly searched the email accounts of sixteen deans, media reported on March 10th, as central administrators looked for information regarding a media leak about a widespread cheating scandal at the internationally renowned institution.

The Boston Globe wrote that the effected residential deans sat on Harvard's Administrative board and were never informed of the search plans, and only dean was informed — leading him to advise a student as such, which then lead to a leak to both the Harvard Crimson and the Globe.

Read more from GlobalPost: Harvard students cheating investigated after final exam

The Harvard Crimson reported on the e-mail on September 1st 2012, but details of the search, in which no one ws punished, didn't come to light until March 2013.

Dean's administrative accounts were searched but not their personal accounts, added the Globe, although it's unsure how much privacy resident deans — who teach, but are not professors — should expect from their academic employers.

“If circumstances were to arise that gave reason to believe that the Administrative Board process might have been compromised, then Harvard College would take all necessary and appropriate actions under our procedures to safeguard the integrity of that process, which is designed to protect the rights of our students to privacy and due process,” said dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D Smith in the New York Times.

The cheating scandal began in August 2012 when "nearly half" the students in a large government class reportedly cheated on a take-home exam, wrote the New York Times, leading to considerable controversy.