The Administrative Board of Harvard College

Members of the Administrative Board

Administrative Board Petitions and Cases

Procedures of the Administrative Board

Actions of the Administrative Board

Administrative Board Actions and Letters of Recommendation

Readmission after Requirement to Withdraw for Disciplinary or Academic Reasons

The Administrative Board was established by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 1890. The Board’s authority to handle the routine College administrative and disciplinary matters derives directly from the Faculty. All meetings and discussions of the Administrative Board are confidential.

Over its history the Administrative Board has developed procedures and practices to guide its work and decisions. These practices include various opportunities and options to assist students in their transactions with the Board. Among others, these include: a student’s option to appeal; the opportunity to meet personally with a subcommittee of the Board in some disciplinary cases; the option to have present during a personal appearance at the subcommittee meeting an adviser in addition to one’s Resident Dean; the ability to take up very routine matters with the Registrar or House and Dean of Students offices.

Members of the Administrative Board

By design, the members and permanent guests of the Board occupy positions well-suited to understand a student’s petition in light of the College’s standards and rules. Thus, they include both teaching members of the Faculty and several senior administrators. However, the Resident Deans make up the majority of the regular participants of the Administrative Board and together provide students with a direct link to the Board. Students may consult with their Resident Dean about any concerns they have. In addition to academic questions, such as choice of concentration or changes in programs, students frequently raise questions of a more personal nature with their Resident Dean.

Administrative Board Petitions and Cases

The Administrative Board acts on different types of petitions and cases, categorized as routine and special petitions, disciplinary cases involving social misconduct, and academic review. Students may refer to the website for the Administrative Board for more information on the number of petitions and cases, category by category, considered by the Board in the previous five years.

The full Board hears all academic review cases and disciplinary cases involving social misconduct. Violation of the standards for conduct in the community and disruptive behavior are typical of the disciplinary cases it handles. After the close of each term, the Board reviews all unsatisfactory academic records and determines what action, if any, should be taken.

Procedures of the Administrative Board

The Administrative Board decides its cases and petitions according to well-established standards and the specific rules and policies established by the Faculty and the University, taking into account the Board’s understanding of the student’s particular circumstances. All Board actions follow essentially the same procedures.

In arriving at any decision, the Administrative Board pays close attention to the academic and personal growth of the students, both as individuals and as members of a residential academic community. Just as the Board depends heavily on the knowledgeable participation of the Resident Deans, the Board itself may be the single most important resource available to the Resident Deans who routinely assist students with academic and residential matters.

Petitions

Board actions ordinarily begin with a discussion between the student and the Resident Dean. At that time the student and the adviser review the student’s plans or situation and the various options available. Many matters can be resolved through the use of petitions. Some are so common that the College has a standard form by which the student may request (and the Board may take) action; special petitions may require that the student submit a written statement, explaining the particular circumstances of the request. 

Non-peer and peer disputes that do not involve allegations of sexual or gender-based harassment

Disciplinary cases also begin with a conversation between the student, the student's Resident Dean, and the Secretary of the Administrative Board or designee, during which they discuss the incident, the relevant College rules or standards of conduct, and possible courses of action. Since the Board takes great care with disciplinary cases, the initial conversation may lead to several subsequent conversations. For more information on Board procedures visit the website for the Administrative Board.

Once the student and Resident Dean have a sound understanding and description of the incident, they present it to the Board as soon as possible. If it is likely that the Board will take formal disciplinary action, the student may choose to appear before a subcommittee of the Board personally when the case is discussed, and, if so, may choose to have another officer of the University with an appointment in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences attend as the personal adviser. Disciplinary cases in which the facts are in dispute or which require investigation may be referred, at the discretion of the Dean of Harvard College, to a subcommittee of the Administrative Board which may work with the assistance of a fact finder.

A complaint or allegation of wrongdoing against a Harvard undergraduate may be filed in writing with a Resident Dean or the Dean of Harvard College by a member of the Faculty or other officer of the University, or by a staff member, student or other member of the community. The College will decide whether to issue a charge and, if so, against whom and for what. Complaints must ordinarily be brought to the College in a timely manner. The Board typically cannot resolve peer dispute cases in which there is little evidence except the conflicting statements of the principals. Therefore, students are asked to provide as much information as possible to support their allegations. Based on that information and any other information obtained through investigation, the Board will decide whether to issue a charge. If a charge is issued, the investigation will continue further and the Board will decide the case.

The Administrative Board may independently initiate a charge against a student, and usually does so when a student has been charged with a crime in a court of law. When court action is pending or in progress, the Administrative Board may delay or suspend its own review process, in recognition of the student’s criminal defense interests.

Disciplinary cases are ordinarily considered by the Administrative Board as quickly as is reasonably possible, given the Board’s schedule and the need to investigate matters carefully. (The Board does not meet during the summer months.) A disciplinary matter concerning a student on leave of absence will also be handled as quickly as possible, and no student on a leave of absence will be allowed to register until any pending disciplinary matter has been resolved. In the case of alleged serious criminal behavior, the College may place a student involuntarily on a leave of absence. Students are expected to comply with all disciplinary rules from matriculation until the conferring of the degree. A degree will not be granted to a student who is not in good standing or against whom a disciplinary charge is pending.

Sexual or Gender-Based Harassment

Though the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has established Procedures for investigating violations of the University’s Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment, the College remains responsible for student discipline through the Administrative Board. Any disciplinary proceedings against a College student based on allegations of a violation of the Policy must be conducted in a manner consistent with the University Procedures. The disciplinary procedures that apply to allegations of sexual or gender-based harassment brought against any undergraduate student may be found in full here.

Academic Review

Finally, when the Board reviews all unsatisfactory records at the end of each term and the Resident Deans present each such record with a description of the factors leading to it, these presentations, too, are based on their conversations with the students and usually include supporting or explanatory information from the course instructors or the students’ advisers. 

Reconsideration and Appeals

A student may ask that any decision of the Administrative Board be reconsidered provided that new materially relevant information becomes available or there is reasonable evidence of a procedural error. A student has the option to appeal some disciplinary decisions of the Administrative Board to the Faculty Council. Information on this process may be obtained from the student’s Resident Dean, the Secretary of the Administrative Board (University Hall, Ground Floor North), or the Secretary of the Faculty (University Hall, First Floor South).

Appeals involving cases of sexual or gender-based harassment are described in the University Procedures as well as in the FAS Procedures.

Actions of the Administrative Board

It should be noted that students are considered in good standing when they are not on probation and have not been required to withdraw, dismissed, or expelled from the College for either academic or disciplinary reasons. Warnings and admonitions do not affect a student’s good standing.

In disciplinary cases, if the Board determines that wrongdoing occurred, it may take the following actions:

  1. Warn or Admonish: a reprimand to a student whose behavior violates the rules or standards of conduct of the community. A warning becomes part of the student’s official record, but is not considered a formal disciplinary action.
     
  2. Disciplinary Probation: a strong warning to a student whose conduct gives serious cause for concern. Probation is a formal disciplinary action of the College and becomes part of the student’s official record.

During the period of time (to be specified by the Board) that a student is on probation, any further instance of misconduct will cause the Board seriously to consider requiring the student to withdraw from the College. Students on probation must be especially conscientious about their behavior and responsibilities. If the offense is related to participation in extracurricular activity, the Board may at its discretion restrict such participation; in cases in which management of time appears to contribute to the problem, the Board may require that the student obtain the Board’s permission for participation in each individual activity. The Board may also attach additional requirements to probation. It is the Board’s hope that the structure imposed by probation will help students amend their conduct so as to meet the standards of this community. Failure to do so is a grave matter, ordinarily leading to further disciplinary action, including requirement to withdraw. Students placed on disciplinary probation are ordinarily relieved of probation at the end of a set period of time (specified by the Board in its decision), if they have maintained satisfactory conduct.

Students on probation may not receive a degree until they have been relieved of probation by the Administrative Board.

3.  Requirement to Withdraw for Disciplinary Reasons: action taken in serious disciplinary cases indicating that the student’s behavior is unacceptable in this community. Requirement to withdraw is a formal disciplinary action of the College and becomes part of the student’s official record. Requirement to withdraw ordinarily is effective immediately upon vote of the Administrative Board.

For students who have been required to withdraw, the rules regarding financial aid and financial obligations (room rent, board, etc.) are the same as for undergraduates who go on leave of absence (see Students' Financial Obligations). Students who are required to withdraw from the University are not entitled to an identification card until they have been officially readmitted (see also Harvard University Identification Cards).

A student who is required to withdraw for disciplinary reasons is not in good standing until readmitted, and may not participate in any academic exercises or extracurricular activities. Students may not receive a degree until they have been readmitted to good standing in the College. In order to be readmitted, the student ordinarily must have been away from the College for at least one but ordinarily two or more full terms and must have shown an acceptable record of performance during a substantial period (at least six consecutive months) of regular employment. Employment must be full-time, paid, supervised and evaluated, and not in a business owned or controlled by the student’s family. Without exception, students who have been required to withdraw must petition the Board to be readmitted to the College, and the Board’s decision will depend on its judgment of the student’s readiness to rejoin the College community (see also Readmission after Requirement to Withdraw for Disciplinary or Academic Reasons). A student who has twice been required to withdraw from the College will ordinarily not be readmitted. No student who for disciplinary reasons has been required to withdraw for the second and final time or dismissed from Harvard College may ordinarily enroll in the Harvard Summer School or in the Extension School.

4.  Dismissal: action taken in serious disciplinary cases whereby a student’s connection with the University is ended by vote of the Faculty Council. (The action taken by the Board is a vote of requirement to withdraw with a recommendation to the Faculty Council that the student be dismissed.) Dismissal does not necessarily preclude a student’s return, but readmission is granted rarely and only by vote of the Faculty Council. A dismissed student is not in good standing until readmitted.

5.  Expulsion: the most extreme disciplinary action possible. It signifies that the student is no longer welcome in the community. Expulsion must be voted by the Faculty Council. (The action taken by the Board is a vote of requirement to withdraw with a recommendation to the Faculty Council that the student be expelled.) A student who is expelled can never be readmitted and restored to good standing.

In cases of academic review the Administrative Board can take any of the following actions:

1.  Academic Probation: a serious warning to a student whose academic performance for the term is unsatisfactory. Academic probation is a formal action of the Administrative Board and becomes part of the student’s official record.

During the time that a student is on academic probation, any further instance of unsatisfactory academic progress will cause the Administrative Board to give serious consideration to requiring the student to withdraw from the College, ordinarily for two terms. A student on probation must attend all classes and be especially conscientious about all academic responsibilities. If the unsatisfactory academic record is related to participation in extracurricular activity, the Administrative Board may at its discretion restrict participation; in cases in which management of time appears to be the problem, the Administrative Board may require the student to obtain the Board’s permission for participation in each individual extracurricular activity. The Board may also attach additional requirements to probation. It is the hope of the Administrative Board that the structure imposed by probation will help the student resume satisfactory progress toward the degree. Failure of the student to do so is a grave matter and will ordinarily result in requirement to withdraw.

A student placed on probation for academic reasons is relieved of probation at the end of the next completed term if the record is satisfactory (including the passing of at least three courses). Students on probation may not receive a degree until they have been relieved of probation by the Administrative Board.

2.  Requirement to Withdraw for Academic Reasons: action that may be taken in the following circumstances reflecting the Board’s judgment that the record indicates that the student should be given time to reassess academic goals and plans:

  • in the case of a student who has failed to have a satisfactory record for two consecutive terms;
  • at any return of grades in the case of any student, whether or not previously on probation, whose record fails to meet the minimum requirements (see also Minimum Requirements);
  • in the case of serious neglect of work followed by an unsatisfactory record in any term, even though the student has met the minimum requirements.
  • Requirement to withdraw for academic reasons is a formal action of the College and becomes part of the student’s official record.

Students who have been required to withdraw for academic reasons should consult closely with their Resident Dean regarding financial aid and financial obligations (room rent, board, etc.), which vary in certain respects from the obligations for undergraduates who go on leave of absence or who are required to withdraw for disciplinary reasons. Students who are required to withdraw from the University are not entitled to an identification card until they have officially been readmitted (see also Harvard University Identification Cards). 

A student who is required to withdraw for academic reasons is not in good standing, and may not participate in any academic exercises or extracurricular activities. Students may not receive a degree until they have been readmitted to good standing in the College. At the end of the period of withdrawal, the student may be readmitted on (academic) probation, and relieved of (academic) probation at the end of that term provided the record is satisfactory (including the passing of at least three courses). In order to be readmitted, the student ordinarily must have been away from the College for at least one but ordinarily two or more full terms and must have shown an acceptable record of performance during a substantial period (at least six consecutive months) of full-time paid employment. Employment must be full-time, paid, supervised, and evaluated, and not in a business owned or controlled by the student’s family.

Without exception, students who have been required to withdraw must petition the Board to be readmitted to the College, and the Board’s decision will depend on its judgment of the student’s readiness to rejoin the College community (see also Readmission after Requirement to Withdraw for Disciplinary or Academic Reasons). A student who has twice been required to withdraw from the College will ordinarily not be readmitted. Although Exclusion from a Course is an action the Board will have taken prior to academic review, such evidence of neglect of work resulting in a failing grade weighs heavily in the Board’s consideration of and response to unsatisfactory records.

Should a first unsatisfactory record result from especially compelling and well-documented extenuating circumstances, the Board could decide to Take No Action and warn students about their academic record instead of placing them on academic probation. However, an unsatisfactory record remains so regardless of the action taken by the Board. Therefore all students who have an unsatisfactory record must take care to ensure that they earn all satisfactory grades during their next term in the College or a second unsatisfactory record may result in a requirement to withdraw.

Administrative Board Actions and Letters of Recommendation

The Administrative Board has adopted the following policy with regard to recommendations for students that are provided on behalf of Harvard College.

  1. Resident Deans and those acting on their behalf will answer honestly and fully all questions asked of them on admissions and fellowship applications.
  2. Resident Deans and those acting on their behalf will advise students of their responsibility to answer honestly and fully all questions asked on admissions and fellowship applications.
  3. Any requirement to withdraw for academic reasons must always be mentioned in all recommendations for students provided on behalf of Harvard College.
  4. Any requirement to withdraw or probation for disciplinary reasons must always be mentioned in all recommendations for students provided on behalf of Harvard College.
  5. Resident Deans and those acting on their behalf will amend any letters of recommendation provided on behalf of Harvard College to reflect any change in a student’s status.
  6. Every recommendation mentioning one or more actions taken for disciplinary or academic reasons will state that doing so is mandated by College policy. The letters will place such actions in the context of the student’s overall undergraduate experience at Harvard.
  7. If a disciplinary matter is pending at the time a letter of recommendation is prepared, the letter will state that a disciplinary matter is pending, and that this is being reported as a matter of College policy.

Readmission after Requirement to Withdraw for Disciplinary or Academic Reasons

Students who have been required to withdraw will be readmitted only if they can present convincing evidence that they are likely to achieve good standing with respect to both their academic record and conduct if given a second opportunity to study at Harvard. In all such cases the student must petition the Administrative Board to be readmitted to the College, and the Board’s decision will depend on its judgment of the student’s readiness to resume studies and to rejoin the College community.

Students required to withdraw should not assume that readmission is automatic. Rather, they must fulfill to the satisfaction of the Administrative Board the Faculty’s and the Board’s minimum requirements for readmission listed below, and they must also meet any special requirements set by the Administrative Board or Honor Council and described in the letter sent them by the Resident Dean when they were required to withdraw. Examples of such additional, special requirements are (1) a specified level of achievement in a session of the Harvard Summer School, and (2) more than two terms spent away from the College and the Harvard campus. In certain cases, a student may also be requested to consult with Harvard University Health Services prior to return. The Administrative Board will not ordinarily approve the return of a student for the fall term whose experience in the Harvard Summer School in the previous summer has been unsuccessful or unsatisfactory. If students are in any doubt as to the requirements for their readmission following a requirement to withdraw, it is their responsibility to contact the Resident Dean for clarification.

Students request readmission through their Resident Dean, who present the students’ petitions to the Administrative Board. A petition for readmission is not normally considered before December or May prior to the term for which readmission is sought, and the petition must ordinarily be filed at least twelve weeks in advance of the beginning of the term for which the student seeks readmission. Earlier deadlines for housing and financial aid applications will pertain even though petitions for readmission cannot be considered before December or May.

Minimum general prerequisites for readmission are:

  1. A specified period of time (at the very least, one full term) spent away from Harvard College and University property.
  2. Both residence and employment away from the Harvard campus for the period of withdrawal prior to readmission unless other arrangements have been specially approved in advance by the Administrative Board.
  3. An acceptable record of performance for a minimum of six months of continuous, regular, full-time paid employment at one non-academic job, with a suitable letter of recommendation from the employer or employment supervisor.
  4. A satisfactory standard of conduct during the period since the student was required to withdraw.
  5. Indication that the student has an understanding of the reasons for previous difficulties in the College, particularly those related to the requirement to withdraw.
  6. Assurance that the student has adequate motivation for resuming academic work and an appropriate program of study in mind.

Note: Students who through their own decision or action of the Administrative Board have been away from College for five or more years must petition the Board for permission to register. Those planning to return to the College after an absence of five or more years will not ordinarily be eligible for scholarship aid from institutional sources. Petitions to return after an interval of five or more years must include evidence of financial resources necessary to meet all College expenses.