Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why NYU in Abu Dhabi Matters

I have been writing off and on for several years about the globalization strategies of the American universities. I am quite proud that Harvard has not followed Yale, NYU, and other top universities by opening campuses in countries that lack the civic foundation of liberal education, the right to speak freely and to protest peaceably the actions of authorities. Jim Sleeper has been extremely eloquent on the situation with Yale in Singapore, and the sleaziness of the connections between the Yale Corporation and Singaporean investors.

The New York Times recently broke the news that NYU's Abu Dhabi campus was being built by laborers whose work conditions were not much better than slavery. It was a well researched piece, to which NYU had no substantial response -- instead, the damage control machine leapt into action with the same sort of see-no-evil defense we expect to hear from for-profit companies whose product defects have been exposed, having long been shielded from public view to hold up sales. Today Andrew Ross Sorkin has a piece that teases out some of the story behind the story. Follow the money: An NYU trustee is, surprise surprise, a Abu Dhabi investor.

Sorkin pulls out an old quote from Abe Greenwald that explains, quite succinctly, why this matters. "By selling a degraded clone of itself to the highest bidder, N.Y.U. is doing irreversible damage to U.S. universities as a whole."

That is not overdramatizing. Universities are not a system; the top places compete with each other as much as Ford and GM do. But they are in one important way not like Ford and GM. They are public charities, devoted before all else to the pursuit of the truth, exempt from taxation and largely unregulated from control of their teaching and research because of American confidence that the free exchange of ideas develops a citizenry capable of enlightened self-governance.

To do their job, universities rely on the public's trust. The expectation that they will be left alone to pursue the the truth, and to promote the impartial search for the truth, and to inspire their students to be incorruptible in the face of temptations to twist the truth for private benefit, places an enormous moral burden on universities, much greater than that on any other kind of corporation. To the extent they are seen as just as venal and corruptible as the political and corporate institutions of society, they will be treated with the same cynicism and contempt as are currently reserved for the likes of the U.S. Congress and Exxon. So it goes, it would seem, at NYU.

[Corrected to give the name the correct gulf state.]

Monday, May 26, 2014

Fear of Oaths at the Tercentary

I happened to be reading (don't even ask) a special section of the Boston Herald Traveler published in 1936 in honor of Harvard's three hundredth birthday. President James Bryant Conant wrote a short piece, as did various other luminaries, about the state and future of higher education. What worried him? Waning public confidence in higher learning (plus ├ža change), and a requirement that college teachers take a superficially benign oath.
This is admittedly a time of trouble and depression, but it is also a time of peril for the universities of the world, a time when the friends of these institutions must rally to their support. Look at what has happened in Germany, see to what state their great and free centers of learning have been reduced. Count the distinguished men who once occupied the chairs in her ancient academies and mark how few remain today. Liberty is the life blood of those who are in quest of the truth, and liberty has vanished. So in Russia it vanished nearly a generation ago. In these countries the advancement of science is permitted but within strict bounds; a free inquiry on any subject is, to say the least, hazardous.
Even in our Commonwealth here I am sorry to say we have seen the first step taken in the same direction--the enactment of a Teachers' Oath Law. No issue of patriotism is here involved; the issue is between those who have confidence in the learned world and those who fail to understand it and hence distrust it, dislike it, and would eventually curb it. The present law is perhaps as innocuous as such a law could be but it is a straw showing the way the wind is blowing. The havoc of the gale in other lands make me feel that those who value our universities should now come forward.
The Teachers Oath Law was passed in 1936 and read, in part, as follows:
"Every citizen of the United States entering service . . . as professor, instructor or teacher at any college, university, teachers' college, or public or private school, in the commonwealth shall, before entering upon the discharge of his duties, take and subscribe to . . . the following oath or affirmation: -- `I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the position of . . . according to the best of my ability.' . . . No professor, instructor or teacher who is a citizen of the United States shall be permitted to enter upon his duties within the commonwealth unless and until such oath or affirmation shall have been so subscribed . . .. Whoever violates such oath or affirmation so far as it relates to the support of the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the commonwealth, shall be punished by fine of not more than one thousand dollars."
A Massachusetts court seems to to have ruled the law unconstitutional in 1966 or 1967, and I presume it hasn't bothered anyone since then. The specific finding was that the second part of the oath, the "best of my ability" part, was unconstitutionally vague and served no reasonable public interest. Unable to determine whether the legislature would have passed the oath to uphold the US and state constitutions without the second clause, the court threw out the entire law.

I nodded my head at several parts of this story.

First, for all the talk about a crisis in higher education, indeed an upheaval of unprecedented dimensions, it is good to remember that there have been other crises, crises in which great university systems have been destroyed for political purposes. That is not to argue for complacency -- our current crises may well be real enough. But we should be precise and analytical about our crises, expecting some courageous leadership where it is called for, but not running around like headless chickens just because the world is changing in some way that threatens the status quo.

Second, it can't be emphasized enough that "Liberty is the life blood of those who are in quest of the truth." So every quarrel about shutting down a commencement speaker, or demurring on trigger warnings, or pushing back against legislative control of academic curricula is a skirmish in the battle for the right to pursue the truth freely, and to teach it as one sees it.

Third, of course, is Conant's deep suspicion of oaths, even oaths requiring college teachers to affirm wholly innocuous things. I don't think anyone would label Conant a deluded paranoid, and yet he found the Teachers Oath "a straw showing the way the wind is blowing." Perhaps his way of thinking explains my antipathy to the honor affirmation the Harvard faculty voted for students. I find this new culture of affirmation odious, even though, as has been argued, the thing students are being asked to affirm is nothing but an essential principle of membership in the academic community. So it was, Conant thought, with the Teachers Oath, and he objected anyway. The Harvard faculty was eager to vote in the oath, without even understanding whether what was being voted was actually a requirement, or what would happen to a student who refused. The students (at least the ones invited to address the faculty, there seems to have been no plebiscite) were eager to be required to take the oath. Who is teaching the importance of liberty, as Conant publicly did? The academy no longer need fear the legislature; our problems lie elsewhere, as Walt Kelly warned: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Sunday, May 25, 2014

An Opening for a Student Entrepreneur?

The Crimson has a follow on story about the decision not to publish the difficulty scores for courses. In a year when students have been pretty apathetic -- the student body did not come together around the Occupy movement, or fossil fuel divestiture, or even the controversies surrounding sexual assault -- it seems that everybody is angry about the Q guide.

The comments on the original story include some proposing that students take control. Unfortunately some of the history is misstated. Take this comment, for example:
What current students may not know is that the Q guide used to be a student run operation that printed candid and unsympathetic evaluations, with minimal censorship and often a great deal of humor. It did not protect the faculty from the truth being told about the quality of their teaching and course materials. But then the faculty took over the Q, and under the guise of improving the evaluations, created all kinds of avenues for faculty to opt out of letting the students know the truth about their courses. Now, faculty with a bad review are often not named as instructors. When the student comments are generally negative, they aren't printed. Some prominent life sciences courses, despite public assertions to the contrary, are so poorly regarded by students that their comments haven't been printed for years. The students would be best served by once again taking ownership of the evaluation process - by collecting and publishing their own evaluations.
 The actual history goes like this. The Crimson used to publish a "Confidential Guide," a.k.a. the Confi Guide. It contained advertising and was sold for a few bucks. It was random in its coverage, irreverent, humorous, and sometimes cruel. I include for illustrative purposes the review of my own course from the 1978-79 Confi Guide.

(I can't deny it all. Yes, I used to do things in class for which I would probably get arrested today. But I am sticking to my story that I had absolutely nothing to do with my TFs wheeling that keg of beer into the Science Center lecture hall on one festive occasion in the spring of 1981 and passing cups of brew out to the whole AM 110 class.)

In 1975, Harvard went into competition with the Confi Guide, publishing student course evaluations under the auspices of the Committee on Undergraduate Education. The volume was called the CUE guide as a result. In its early editions (CUE is a student-faculty committee, and I was on it for several years starting in 1975), the CUE guide included direct quotes from student questionnaires, typically zingers the editors had picked out to spice up the prose. Some faculty protested, and the FAS was paying the bills, so no more direct quotations. Also, originally individual professors could opt out, but the faculty legislated mandatory participation just a few years ago. So the above suggestion that faculty can opt out isn't true, but it's also true that the prose is now unspeakably dull, since it is for all intents and purposes mechanically generated from the numerical summaries of the questionnaires.

The CUE guide eventually put the Confi Guide out of business. And eventually control of the guide passed out from the authority of the CUE so the guide was renamed the Q.

Over the years there were charges of administrative censorship, which is of course exactly what was going on. It was one of the thankless jobs of the dean of undergraduate education to get the Guide produced by editors who were supposed to be producing a student guide but were in fact under administrative control. Was that censorship? "If it walks like a duck and acts like a duck, I guess it’s a duck," said one dean. (Note: sone of the dates in that story are plainly wrong.)

Is there really enough student interest to produce a meaningful guide outside official control? Another commenter is skeptical and has an interesting suggestion about how to piggyback on the Q data collection, with which which students are incentivized to cooperate because they get to see their grades a few days earlier if they complete their questionnaires.
Unfortunately, there's no way to make a survey with as high of a participation rate as the Q guide. A student-run evaluation couldn't incentivize so many students to report in the same way the Q can, since the College can keep us from seeing our grades. [a CS student] suggested a Chrome extension that registers a person's input to the Q guide - they'd only have to fill it out once, but ALL data (including student comments) would be recorded and could be made public. Can someone make that and publicize it, please? It'd be anonymous, and a student would only have to add it once to Chrome.
It's an interesting idea, but I wouldn't really recommend it. Sounds sketchy to me, and you'd have to get massive compliance with installing the extension, and would have to get new students to do it every year.

But in the Internet era, it shouldn't be too hard for for some enduring institution (The Crimson? The UC?) to provide enough small incentives to get students to fill out a simple survey about the courses they took and to web-publish a quick summary of the results. If they wanted to provide a professional service, they could even improve on the Q by asking students to evaluate their courses a second time a year later. The quality and value of a course are likely better judged with the perspective of some passage of time. Anyway, people probably thought Angie's list and Amazon reviews would never work either. And I have previously documented how Facebook itself came into being when Zuckerberg decided to do something Harvard had thought of doing but hadn't gotten around to doing. What evaluation services people would find useful enough to help build, I certainly wouldn't want to predict.

In other words, it's just possible that Harvard's move to control the difficulty information could prove to be the straw that broke the back of the already overweight censorship quality control mechanisms that have been put in place on the Q over the years. In the era of cheap web publishing, there may be an opportunity there for some enterprising student.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Harvard Stops Offering (Information About) Easy Courses

Today's Crimson has a story that combines several of my favorite subjects: information freedom and information control, student course evaluations, the incentive and reward structure for faculty, and how hard it is in higher education to attack a real problem rather than a symptom.

Harvard will no longer make the "difficulty" rating available to readers of the student course evaluation guide (known as the Q). Concerned that these ratings encouraged students to choose easy courses, Harvard will try to make it harder for students to figure out which the easy courses are.

At the micro level, it's hard to argue too strongly against this decision. Of course students shouldn't generally be choosing courses by difficulty. There are certainly circumstances where it's an entirely reasonable strategy -- for example, when a student has to take an extremely time-consuming course at the same time, or when her physical or mental health makes it hard to carry a heavy load. When advising students in such circumstances, I sometimes use this information myself. Still, the information is doubtless more often misused than used well.

But wait a minute. Since when does a university decide what information to provide students based on our institutional judgment of whether they are likely to use it well or badly? Our entire purpose is to teach students how to use information, not to curate it for them so they won't misuse it. We hate the way people use the US News rankings, but we don't refuse to disclose the information on which the rankings are based. Imagine if the librarians or the health service started to go down the road toward curating information we feared people might misuse.

If Harvard were going to stop collecting the difficulty information on the course evaluation questionnaires, that would be one thing. But the plan is to keep asking the questions of the students filling out the end of term surveys, but not to return the aggregated answers back to the students.

Which raises another issue. What is the purpose of this guide anyway? It bills itself to students as "Your Voice, Your Guide," but it seems the difficulty data will actually be collected from students for use by someone else. Indeed, the student evaluation data are routinely included in dossiers for faculty promotion and tenure, even though the use of these numbers as indicators of educational quality is scientifically more than a little suspect. More than twenty years ago, Ambady and Rosenthal demonstrated that Q evaluations correlate highly with student evaluations of half a minute of video of the instructor--with the sound off! (PDF of the Ambady-Rosenthal paper. Both were at Harvard at the time; Ambady later moved to Stanford, and, sadly, died last year.) The dubious use of Q data in promotion decisions is the source of the fear that faculty will make their courses easier in the hope of getting higher ratings from students. But a better solution to the problem of perverse faculty incentives would be to develop a more respectable way of evaluating faculty. It can be done; HBS does it.

All of which gets us back to first principles. If the worry is that too many students are opting to take easy courses, why don't we try teaching fewer easy courses? That would seem to be educationally more constructive than managing the information about them.

Remember, this is not the first time that easy courses have been an issue at Harvard recently. Gov 1310, the course on Congress that resulted in the infamous "cheating scandal," was a gut. The conversations following the announcement of the cheating scandal were about student academic integrity, the withering of the final examination, the place of athletics in colleges, and lots of other things, but not one word was ever said about the fact that the particular course at the center of the scandal was embarrassingly easy and everybody knew it (or, perhaps, had been until its fateful last year).

Today again, if there are any calls to the faculty to stop teaching easy courses, I haven't heard them. (Not that I would be likely to get such a call. Nor would anyone in CS or in the Engineering School, for that matter.) Not one word has been whispered to the faculty at large that we are being too soft on our students, and we shouldn't be trolling for enrollments by lightening our workload.

With all our discussions about honor this year, wouldn't it have been more honorable to call on the faculty to stop teaching easy courses than to pretend we could prevent students from finding out about them?

The modern university is an information machine. Of course we have always created knowledge and conveyed it to our students. What distinguishes the modern university is our information control apparatus. It is now well established that a basic function of the university is to manage information about itself. It is bad enough when the public communications apparatus colors educational decision making; the more that happens, the less the public trusts that we are really prioritizing education over brand management. But now it seems that information control is an accepted tool even of the academic authorities. O tempora, o mores.

For an earlier post on a related topic, see Information Control: Yale's Power Grab.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Inoffensiveness and Protection

American colleges are facing a plague of protectionism. I never remember a generation so eager to thought vulnerable and so insistent that the University shield them from harms, from bad events and hurtful ideas alike.

A number of different forces have gotten us here. I think part of it is coming from consumerism and corporatism (we cater too much to our consumers, and universities like Harvard have to deal corporately with other big corporations like the Roman Catholic Church). Part of it is parental over-involvement, but it's not  just parents who are doing the infantilizing.

On the campus sexual assault front, Cathy Young is one of the few people who has the courage to say the obvious:
A far better solution [than Joe Biden's problematic grandstanding] would be to draw a clear line between forced sex (by violence, threats or incapacitation) and unwanted sex due to alcohol-impaired judgment, miscommunication or verbal pressure. For the former, victims should be encouraged to seek real justice: a rapist deserves prison, not expulsion from college. For the latter, the answer is to promote mutual responsible behavior, not female victimhood.
And as she wrote earlier this year on the general subject of protecting women from words,
To demand special protection on the grounds of women’s particular vulnerabilities is to turn female disempowerment into a self-fulfilling prophecy. 
I commented yesterday on the absurd overreaction to the Satanic Mass. It was a silly parody, which the Crimson got in to see at the Hong Kong. (If any of the reporters were converted to Satanism, they don't mention it in their story. though they do take note of the fact that one of the women performers was scantily clad.) 

What a lot of drama about nothing. I am glad that Harvard didn't quite throw the show off campus, but I thought President Faust went over the top in her comments about how dreadful it all was. Was it really any more anti-Christian than, oh, Bill Maher or Tom Lehrer or Richard Dawkins or Voltaire? Suppose we had a stage show or a course about such comics and thinkers and Cardinal O'Malley objected, would the President really get quite so apoplectic about it all?

Mind you, I'm glad she spoke up if that is the way she feels, and I am glad she did not shut the show down. I am just surprised at the strength of her criticism given that she wouldn't say a word to criticize Michael Porter when he disgraced Harvard by taking a bucketload of money from Muammar Gaddafi to deliver a report praising Gaddafi's Libya as a great democracy, and then posted it on his Harvard web site. The Harvard President probably knows a lot more about the example that Harvard faculty set for Harvard students and the world than she does about moral effects of silly religious parodies. 

Now I learn from the New Republic that colleges have started to require "trigger warnings" in course syllabi. That term was originally an Internet term of art for notice to readers of some of the rawer blogs that a rape scene was coming. The idea that sufferers from PTSD as a result of sexual assault deserved to notified, lest they experience a flashback. Blog editors can do what they want -- many make no pretense of being marketplaces of ideas, after all. But now colleges have picked up the practice and generalized it. For example, according to the article, 
Oberlin College has published an official document on triggers, advising faculty members to "be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression," to remove triggering material when it doesn't "directly" contribute to learning goals and "strongly consider" developing a policy to make "triggering material" optional. 
A bunch of other examples are given (many of them just student proposals, to be fair, and none of them from Harvard, thank goodness).

Really? The faculty of these places go along with the idea that students should expect to be warned when they are about to hear potentially disturbing ideas? So they can arm their resistance mechanisms against the penetration of ideational challenges they don't want to have to handle rationally?

I always thought that was the whole point of going to college, to hear disturbing ideas. I always thought disturbing ideas were cool, still do. As a profession, are we academics really going to buy into the idea that students need to be protected, not just from being offended, but even from being disturbed?

(I riffed on some related thought in a Morning Prayer homily in 2006.)

Monday, May 12, 2014

A bad day for the right to offend

Just wondering:

Do all these people who found the the idea of the Satanic Mass so repugnant (to use Cardinal O'Malley's term) and abhorrent and reprehensible and so on, and demanded that Harvard censor it (even though it involved no desecration of actually sacred objects, only some theatrical mockery), think Putin was right to jail the Pussy Riot for desecrating an actual sacred place?

The right to offend IS the right to free speech, since nobody needs any rights to be inoffensive. So I count today as a loss for free speech, since giving in to the bullies inevitably empowers other bullies who push a little further the line of what they claim to find so offensive and repugnant that other people should not be allowed to listen to it.

Yes, I know, officially the student group pulled its support of the theatrical, but given the sequence of events, it amounts to a pullout under pressure.

Personally, I always found repugnant the idea that I was eating the body of Christ. Sorry, friends, but it's true, and no amount of metaphysics about transubstantiation, and I read a lot of it once, made it seem a less barbaric practice. (Two! Four! Six! Eight! Time to transubstantiate! Could Tom Lehrer have sung that today?)

As if that wasn't bad enough, the admirable Christine Lagarde has followed Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Condoleeza Rice as women that American college students find too offensive to listen to on their graduation day. (Ruth Simmons has replaced Lagarde.) This is idiotic. It's not the same thing as the theatricals, because the university chooses speakers, but not the performances student groups put on. But having three pull out in the same month is a terrible trend. What the hell is so terrible about listening to Christine Lagarde, -- or deciding not to if you prefer? She isn't exactly the Shah of Iran, who was my commencement speaker.

Of course the Satanic Mass production was a dumb idea. The problem is giving some authority the power to say which ideas are dumb, because the authorities will inevitably push the line in their favor. Remember, King George did that, which is how we wound up with the First Amendment. I am sure he thought Common Sense was repugnant and abhorrent and made a mockery of the monarchy!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bring back the horses?

There are more important things to blog about. The Boston Archdiocese has taken exception to the "Black Sabbath Mass" performance at Harvard. Quickly: no, Father Landry, Harvard doesn't actually maintain a handy Index Librorum Prohibitorium, to which the folks who rent out the rooms can refer before letting a student group sign up for space; anyway, wouldn't it have been smarter to react the way the LDS church did to the Book of Mormon? My advice to everyone: if it offends you, don't go and you won't have to be offended, and if you can convince enough others to stay away, the show will fold. Right now you have the marketplace of ideas working against you; if the Church thinks it's that bad, it really must be worth seeing!

Then there is the resurgence, with Joe Biden's full throated support, of the campus sexual assault issue, which Ross Douthat ties rather too simplistically to a general breakdown in morals at college. Hint on my views on the key action item: I think accusations of grave crimes require a high standard of proof, since the consequences of false positives are so severe. I always thought that was the American way.

But I don't have enough time to do a proper job on those sensitive issues and am likely to be unhelpfully annoying if I do them quickly. (Probably was already, in fact.)

So instead I will just give two cheers for new Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for planning to bring back the mounted police to the City of Boston.

The only occasion where I encountered police on horseback was after the Harvard-Yale game when it was held at Harvard. Some years ago, after a Harvard student was severely injured when the crowd in New Haven pulled down the goal posts, Harvard decided to do what it could to be sure the same thing did not happen at the Stadium. The Stadium is in Boston! So with 10 minutes left in the game, half a dozen officers on mounts approached each goal post. It was something to see. And in spite of the propensity for drunken students to do incredibly stupid things, they never were stupid enough to mess with those horses.That ended when the MPs were disbanded. We've been lucky the past few years, but it might be a good idea to restore the practice if we have the chance.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

We Have an Honor Code!

As the Crimson reports, the FAS voted an honor code, and an associated judicial body, into existence this afternoon.

Though I have some quarrels with the details, for now I'll just post the text of my remarks to the Faculty, before the vote took place.
First let me say that I am opposed to neither integrity nor honor. Strongly in favor of both! In fact I am glad that these words are re-entering our vocabulary. I just haven’t heard the evidence that the device that is being proposed here gets at the problems we have, or that we even understand what those problems are. We should be talking about the incentives and rewards we present to our students, and to which they respond, sometimes badly. Some introspection on faculty culture would be healthy too, because students take their cues from us. But all that will have to be for another day; I want to speak to the motion as it is before us.
 Let me go straight to the core of my worries. We have a long and, if I may, honorable tradition in this institution of not asking members of the community to make oaths, pledges, or quasi-sacred affirmations. Now I recognize that this makes us different from other places. In fact, Samuel Eliot Morison, in one of his Harvard histories, observed that it was a distinctive characteristic of the place, that the founders did not expect students to take any oaths. Morison concluded that by avoiding oaths, the founders were putting the emphasis instead on personal autonomy and responsibility. As he put it, “Our founders knew from their English experience that oaths are powerless to bind conscience. … Accordingly this academic vessel was provided with the barest possible code of statutes, and her master and crew, unhampered by oaths and religious tests, were left to exercise their best judgment, as God gave it to them.”
Do we know better now? Equipped with psychological research, perhaps we have discovered that oaths really do have the “power to bind conscience.” So it would seem, since two proposals for solemn pledges have surfaced in the past year, first for a kindness pledge and now for an integrity affirmation. Who knows what may be next.
 It all seems so retrograde. We are moving from treating our students as adults, as autonomous souls endowed with free will, to treating our students as children. We should not do so, however willing students may be to take these oaths.
In today’s world, pledges and oaths are for scout troops and fraternities and military schools, places where the high values are obedience and regimentation. Actually I once received a delegation from one of the service academies when they were trying to figure out what to do about a cheating scandal of their own. Pledges don’t belong in academic communities like this one, which at its best is a place of mature, free-thinking, skeptical, nonconforming men and women. Please excuse me for characterizing this exercise as juvenile, but we know that it is. No one would propose that members of this faculty make such an affirmation. Many of us would refuse to take it. We value academic integrity even more for ourselves than we do for our students. But for all the talk about shared student and faculty buy-in, voting this would be to go on the record as believing that a ritual affirmation of integrity is good for students, even though we would not be willing to take it ourselves.
Let me close by asking a couple of direct questions, in a sharper form than I have put them before, in the hope of getting clearer answers. 1(b) of the motion states, “Commitment to the honor code will be demonstrated through an ‘Affirmation of Integrity.’” The verb form seems not to be an imperative, as it is in the previous Docket Item, which uses a third person “shall.” Is the affirmation voluntary or mandatory? I am of course not asking whether integrity is required of students. Of course it is. I am asking about the act of affirmation itself. Is making that affirmation voluntary or a mandatory? If it is mandatory, what is the sanction on students for failing to affirm their own integrity? Will that act of defiance or neglect be treated as a breach of academic integrity? And finally, will individual faculty members be required to require students to make these affirmations?

I suspect some of my Princeton-educated colleagues may not have appreciated my way of putting things.

Faculty rules do not allow me to quote what others said, so I can't say whether my questions were answered. That may be a matter of opinion, actually. 

It was a disappointing discussion overall, with too much eagerness on the part of both students and faculty for making pledges of doubtful utility, and too little about what cultural changes will have to accompany the affirmations. (Hint: If certain faculty spent more time in Cambridge and less in Washington DC, that might be a good start toward persuading students that we are really engaged in a joint educational enterprise. Returning papers promptly, graded and commented, might be another nice gesture toward signaling to students that we take the educational enterprise seriously. An Honor Code will do nothing to change such realities of faculty behavior.)

A literature review is available to faculty, supposedly demonstrating that honor codes are effective in reducing cheating. Neither I nor two colleagues who read the review closely, one a distinguished social scientist, are convinced that the literature review supports any such conclusion. I cannot share it because it too is part of the confidential materials available only to the Faculty. But I was surprised at the dual claims that seemed to bother few of us in their dissonance: That pledges like this are meaningful and important and speak to our fundamental value of the search for Veritas; and that the psychology literature proves that making such affirmations on a properly tuned schedule are effective behavior modification strategies. Are we in the business of moral norming or psychological engineering?
Added later in the evening after the Crimson story was expanded (some edits made above too):
Despite these concerns, Harris said that research into honor codes shows that they are effective in lowering rates of cheating at schools that implement them.
“It is critical that we move in [accordance] with the research,” he said.
It would be good to make the literature review public, if it not only supports but compels the adoption of the honor code. That was not my impression when I read it. The evidence seemed to me ambiguous. There are certainly differences between different places, but whether the Honor Code itself makes the difference, or the broader cultural context, was anything but clear to me from reading the literature review.
For the second time this semester at a Faculty meeting, Lewis asked Harris whether or not the affirmation of integrity would be mandatory or voluntary and, if it were mandatory, what “sanctions” students would face for refusing to make the affirmation.
Although Harris said at April’s meeting that the affirmation would be required, he did not explain how students might be reprimanded if they chose not to make the affirmation. 
I actually did not remember that from the April meeting, and can't find it in the minutes. I had asked the same question at the February meeting, but that was before there was a motion or even a text to talk about. (The answer given at that time I should not quote, but is irrelevant since it was just a preliminary discussion.)

I am puzzled that the answer of this simple question is so ambiguous and that the lack of an answer was of so little concern to my colleagues. The use of the simple future tense, rather than the third person imperative "shall" used in another motion we voted today, does not suggest that the affirmation is mandatory. Of course there might be a middle ground, as there was withe the "Kindness Pledge" -- to make students apply for Conscientious Objector status (sorry for my sixties memories!), or, without sanctioning refuseniks, to make the pledge the only socially comfortable option for students, by shaming those who do not sign it (the idea with the Kindness Pledge was to leave their names off a list of signatories posted in entry ways), to let them know that they would be under special surveillance, etc.

Perhaps we shall learn more as events unfold.

Added 7 March: The Crimson now reports that Dean Harris stated at the February meeting that the affirmation would be mandatory. So this matter is now in a confused state, but I think the answer is probably that he changed his mind, the use of "will" rather than "shall" in the legislation is intentional, and no student will, strictly speaking, be required to affirm anything.