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May 23rd, 2018 - 1:03 pm § in Hypocrisy, Schools & Colleges

Sexual McCarthyism

A Harvard economics researcher has been accused of making “sexually inappropriate” comments

Roland Fryer is accused of creating a hostile work environment at his Harvard lab.  Whatever the truth, the saddest thing is that the review of what could be real issues is being conducted by administrators who might or might not have the interests of the woman who complained at heart.

The allegations is  part of a real effort to assure that abuses based on gender are not allowed to happen. The problem is it is not hard to worry that  a man who has made seminal studies of the racial achievement gap, the effects of charter schools, and racial disparities in police shootings is an all too likely target.   For the records, Roland Gerhard Fryer Jr. is an economist, he is currently the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University and in 2007, at age 30, became the youngest African-American to ever receive tenure at Harvard.  Anyone who cares about the black achievement gap or the issues between police and African Americans, needs to know this man’s work.  The lab Harvard closed is a hot place for bright people trying to follow Fryer;s model … including people who care about the kinds of abuse this sort of action by Harvard is supposedly intended to address.  The question is why is this an administrator’s jo rather than a job for the Harvard faculty?

 

So, now this more than just a Harvard prof, is under investigation by the university and the state of Massachusetts for allegations of  “sexually inappropriate” comments. Apparently these are based on one person  who made complaints.  Meanwhile, according to a report in the Harvard Crimson  Fryer has not been allowed to enter the research lab he runs since March.  

Harvard claims it has received two formal Title IX complaints against Fryer, according to the Harvard Crimson.  The story in Vox covers the pro and con but meantime this eminent man may have suffered irreversible damage.

So what are the claims?   Supposedly Fryer “frequently discussed sex in the workplace, made sexually inappropriate comments to and about employees and others, and objectified and sexualized women, including his staff.”  There are no reports of retaliation on his part.  Others have said that Fryer is a tough teacher.  As someone who admires Fryer, I wonder if he is being punished for being a great teacher? 

Fryer denied the claims through a statement provided by his attorney, George Leontire.

“Let me state unequivocally that I have not — and would not — engage in any discrimination or harassment of any form,” the statement read. “Any claim to the contrary is patently false.”

Fryer added that EdLabs is “very intense, fast moving and demanding” but that he’s worked to foster an “inclusive environment.”

Colleagues of Fryer’s wrote letters of support in anticipation of the article in the Harvard Crimson. All praised Fryer and defended his leadership at EdLabs, saying the work sometimes forced uncomfortable questions, or its employees needed to meet high standards — but nothing out of the ordinary.

“Roland’s reputation for being a demanding boss who teaches you a ton is deserved, but demanding does not mean unreasonable, unkind, discriminatory, or abusive,” former EdLabs research assistant Blake Heller wrote in a letter of support provided by Fryer’s attorney.

Fryer is also facing a state inquiry. The woman who filed a Title IX complaint last year also reported him to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

Harvard’s faculty, famous for taking the lead in issues just like this, sadly is suffering from administrative take over.  The College, schools and centers were pretty independent of the central administration and their won local admins worked under the direction of a dean, always herself or himself an academic, in close cooperation with faculty committees. Correspondingly, the central administration was very small: There were four vice presidents to oversee administration, alumni affairs and development, finance, and government relations, and a general counsel.

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