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Harvard Prof. Fryer Denies Sexual Harassment Allegations in Letter

Economics Professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr., depicted in a 2006 photo.
Economics Professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr., depicted in a 2006 photo. By Christopher Kwok
By Shera S. Avi-Yonah, Crimson Staff Writer

Economics Professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr. denied all allegations of sexual harassment leveled against him in a letter published in the New York Times Thursday.

Fryer is currently the subject of at least four Harvard-led investigations and one state-level investigation into alleged sexual and financial misconduct. At Harvard, the Office for Dispute Resolution — the University group that investigates formal complaints of sexual and gender-based harassment — opened three inquiries into sexual misconduct allegations against Fryer. Harvard is also looking into Fryer’s spending at EdLabs, the research group he founded, according to the Times.

Separately, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is investigating him based on allegations of sexual harassment brought by one of the Harvard complainants.

Fryer wrote in his letter that EdLabs “has always been a collegial and at times irreverent place.” He added that the Times’s sources inaccurately described his behavior.

“I never retaliated against any employee; I never wrote a negative recommendation letter for anyone; I never refused to write a letter of recommendation for any lab researcher; I never bullied anyone; no Harvard official has ever expressed concern to me over my conduct; and I never made sexual advances to any employee,” Fryer wrote.

Harvard spokesperson Rachael Dane declined to comment on whether Harvard officials ever contacted Fryer about his behavior before this year.

Fryer also wrote that EdLabs employees “have on occasion made off-color jokes and commented on one another’s lives outside of work, including their dating lives.”

“As the faculty director of the lab, I allowed, encouraged and participated in this atmosphere. In that, I was wrong,” he wrote.

The letter is not the first time Fryer has denied allegations of misconduct. In a May interview — shortly before The Crimson first reported the existence of at least two investigations into his behavior — Fryer said he had “zero recollection” of commenting on employees’ sex lives publicly in EdLabs, one of several allegations he denied at the time.

In the letter and in the May interview, Fryer wrote that the success of women who worked in EdLabs is evidence that his lab is not a hostile environment for female employees.

“Every female research assistant has been admitted into at least one top 10 graduate program upon completion of her research fellowship at EdLabs,” he wrote. “Furthermore, the majority of lab employees and the vast majority of its managers are women.”

When the allegations against Fryer first surfaced, Rucha P. Vankudre ’07 — who currently serves as a project manager at EdLabs — also pointed to Fryer’s mentorship of female employees.

“I think if you’re sexist, you don’t choose women to run your lab,” she said in a May interview.

Though ODR has issued a report on at least one of its inquires into Fryer, he is still the subject of at least one Harvard investigation in addition to the MCAD probe. Because Fryer is a faculty member, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Claudine Gay will receive ODR’s final reports. She is not expected to make a decision about what — if any — punishment he recieves until officials have closed all of their investigations, the Times reported earlier this month.

Gay can choose to take any action ranging from “verbal warning up to and including termination,” per FAS policies. Only the Harvard Corporation — the University’s highest governing body — can vote to revoke a professor’s tenure.

—Staff writer Shera S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @saviyonah.

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