Harvard receiving scrutiny for secret classroom photos

Oct. 4, 2014: A gate to Harvard Yard is chained and locked shut

Oct. 4, 2014: A gate to Harvard Yard is chained and locked shut  (Reuters)

Harvard University is receiving harsh criticism from faculty and students for secretly taking pictures of nearly 2,000 undergraduates in a handful of lecture halls across campus as part of a study on classroom attendance.

Vice Provost Peter K. Bol admitted the allegations in a faculty meeting Tuesday, according to The Crimson.

Harvard computer science professor Harry Lewis asked administrators about the study during the meeting, saying he learned about it from two colleagues.

"You should do studies only with the consent of the people being studied," Lewis told The Boston Globe on Wednesday.

The students who were photographed were not initially told their pictures would be taken, the college paper reported.

Students and teachers were not notified because researchers did not want to introduce potential bias into the study, Harvard administrators said. The cameras took pictures every minute and a computer program used them to count empty and occupied seats

Harvard received criticism for secretly searching the university email accounts of 16 deans to find who leaked the university’s cheating scandal to the media. The result led to new policies on privacy regarding electronic communication.

Harvard also recently adopted an honor code for the first time in the school’s history, student Brett Biebelberg said.

President Drew Faust said she will have the latest case reviewed by a panel that oversees the newly established electronic communications policies.

"I indeed do take very seriously the important questions that this incident raises," Faust said, according to The Crimson.

The Associated Press contributed to this report