School & District Management

Harvard Suspends Education Economist Roland Fryer Jr., Shuts Down His Lab in Sexual Harassment Case

By Sarah D. Sparks — July 10, 2019 2 min read
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Harvard University has suspended Roland G. Fryer, Jr. and shuttered his Education Innovation Laboratory, a year after allegations of sexual harassment by one of the leading education economists in the nation.

The university’s Office for Dispute Resolution made the decision following multiple investigations into the lab’s finances and Title IX complaints by previous employees. It found Fryer “engaged in unwelcome sexual conduct toward several individuals, resulting in the creation of a hostile work environment over the course of several years,” and also violated the university’s code of professional conduct.

“In short, Professor Fryer exhibited a pattern of behavior that failed to meet expectations of conduct within our community and was harmful to the well-being of its members,” wrote Arts and Sciences Dean Claudine Gay in an announcement to the economics department on Wednesday. “The totality of these behaviors is a clear violation of institutional norms and a betrayal of the trust of the [faculty of arts and sciences] community.” (Read the full Notification of Changes in the Economics Department.)

George Leontire, an attorney representing Fryer did not respond to request for comment by press time, but in a previous statement to Education Week at the start of Harvard’s investigation, Fryer said, “Let me state unequivocally that I have not—and would not—engage in any discrimination or harassment of any form. Any claim to the contrary is patently false.”

Fryer, who has been barred from EdLabs since the allegations surfaced and had already stepped down from the leadership board of the American Economic Association, faces a two-year unpaid leave. It bars him from teaching or conducting research through the university. He cannot supervise or advise students, both during the suspension and for at least two years after he returns. For those two years after the suspension, he would be allowed to teach graduate-level classes but not workshops, and could teach undergraduate classes only without a teaching fellow and under a Title IX-trained monitor.

It’s a sharp derailment for Fryer, who at 30 was the youngest African-American to earn tenure at Harvard. His groundbreaking research on the causes and proposed solutions to academic achievement gaps helped earn him a prestigious “genius” fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 2011, along with more than $44 million to launch EdLab in 2008.

“I was particularly upset to learn of the ways in which EdLabs members have been impacted, both personally and professionally,” Gay wrote. She later lamented the loss of the lab, which has continued to study the effects of principal incentives on improving students’ reading and math performance, intensive tutoring, and other interventions intended to close racial achievement gaps.

The sanctions go into effect immediately, and it’s uncertain what the university will do with at least six staff members listed on the EdLabs web site.

Photo Source: Harvard University

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.