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Amid Allegations of Sexual Misconduct, Harvard Prof. Fryer Racks Up Second Prestigious Award

Roland Fryer Headshot
A headshot of Economics professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr. among other department faculty in the Littauer Center.
Harvard Professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr. has been named a fellow of the Econometric Society, collecting a second prestigious award in as many months — and as he faces University and state-level investigations into allegations he sexually harassed female subordinates.

Fryer is one of 22 newly minted fellows the Society announced Nov. 8, receiving a position that University of Michigan professor and 2004 Fellow John Bound dubbed “one of the top honors in economics” in an email to The Crimson. Honorees, who serve in the role for life, advise the Society’s Executive Committee on matters of governance.

Candidates for the fellowship must either be nominated by at least three current Fellows or chosen by the nominating committee to see their names appear on the ballot. The Society’s members then vote on candidates each fall.

The Econometric Society did not respond to a request for comment on Fryer's award. The Society also did not respond to a question asking whether it is aware of the allegations against the professor.

The Society — which was founded in 1930 “for the advancement of economic theory in its relation to statistics and mathematics,” according to its website — is not the only group to honor Fryer since the investigations into his behavior launched earlier this year.

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In October, Fryer was elected to the 2019 Executive Committee of the American Economic Association. Days later, the current Committee wrote in a statement they were previously unaware of the allegations against a newly elected member. Though it did not name Fryer, the statement almost certainly referred to him.

Harvard’s Office for Dispute Resolution — which handles allegations of sexual and gender-based harassment in accordance with the University’s Title IX policy — and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination have launched separate investigations into Fryer based on complaints filed by at least two women. The Crimson first reported the existence of the allegations and investigations in May 2018.

Lawyers for one of the complainants alleged in a statement at the time that Fryer had “objectified and sexualized” female staffers in his lab. The attorneys also alleged that he had committed “egregious” acts of verbal sexual harassment targeting their client.

In a May interview with The Crimson, Fryer repeatedly denied any misconduct. He declined to comment for this story through his spokesperson Harry W. Clark, who said he believes it is “inappropriate” to comment on the investigation while the University is still determining whether it will sanction Fryer.

Harvard’s Economics department posted individual announcements Nov. 8 congratulating Fryer and Gita Gopinath — the other University professor elected as a fellow this year — on their election. Department of Economics Chair Jeremy C. Stein did not respond to a request for comment on the award, the allegations, or the congratulatory announcement.

In his email, Bound noted that Fryer has already won the second-highest honor in the field of economics: the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded by the American Economics Association each year to an American economist under the age of 40.

“Election is surely one of the top honors in economics (though the Clark prize which Fryer also won would [beat] being elected a fellow), though the election is tilted toward econometricians and theorists,” Bound wrote in an emailed statement.

—Staff writer Shera S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at shera.avi-yonah@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @saviyonah.

—Staff Writer Angela N. Fu can be reached at angela.fu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @angelanfu.

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