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FAS Research Dean Ferrell Steps Down Following Bullying Allegations

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FAS Research Dean Ferrell Steps Down Following Bullying Allegations

Associate Dean for Research Administration Lauren Ferrell left her role at Harvard on Monday after less than three years in the position.
Associate Dean for Research Administration Lauren Ferrell left her role at Harvard on Monday after less than three years in the position. By Michael Gritzbach
By Tilly R. Robinson and Neil H. Shah, Crimson Staff Writers

Associate Dean for Research Administration Lauren Ferrell stepped down from her position effective Monday — two months after The Crimson reported a slew of workplace complaints against her — according to an email obtained by The Crimson.

Ferrell’s departure, announced in an email to Faculty of Arts and Sciences administrators by FAS Dean of Administration and Finance Scott Jordan and Dean of Science Christopher W. Stubbs, comes following top Harvard administrators’ alleged failure to address workplace complaints against Ferrell, according to 10 current and former Harvard administrators.

Ferrell had served in her role as associate dean for research administration since June 2021.

FAS spokesperson Holly Jensen confirmed Ferrell’s departure, but declined to comment on whether Ferrell left voluntarily or if she was removed from the deanship.

“We are grateful for Dean Ferrell’s contribution to the FAS in this role,” Jensen wrote in a Monday night statement to The Crimson.

Ferrell wrote in an email to The Crimson Monday night that she could not “discuss details of her decision at this time.”

“I remain committed to the importance of integrity, discretion and allowing institutional processes to run their course without undue influence,” she added.

The current and former administrators alleged that Ferrell created a toxic working environment in the FAS Research Administration Services — which she led — including retaliating against staff and questioning their intelligence in public and private settings.

The RAS department provides administrative support to faculty research, including by helping faculty obtain funding and ensuring that their research complies with relevant regulations.

Over the course of Ferrell’s tenure — which lasted less than three years — the ranks of FAS Research Administration Services dwindled from 26 staffers when she arrived to only 10 staffers as of December, which the current and former administrators attributed to her behavior.

FAS Human Resources received a misconduct complaint against Ferrell as far back as October 2021, just four months after Ferrell took office. Prior to Ferrell’s departure, at least 14 informal complaints were filed with Harvard’s Title IX office against her. At least three additional complaints were filed with Massachusetts state agencies, and two more were filed through EthicsPoint — Harvard’s anonymous internal reporting hotline.

On June 7, 2023, a program manager from FAS HR began an internal investigation into Ferrell. But when the manager departed his temporary position at the University less than five months later, RAS staff were left in the dark — unable to reach him and left without any updates on the status of the investigation.

In their email to administrators, Jordan and Stubbs — to whom Ferrell directly reported — wrote that they would “work to prepare for the search for Dean Ferrell’s successor,” but did not include any specific details on the search process.

Sarah L. Elwell, the Assistant Dean of Research in the Sciences Division, and Katherine Gates, Jordan’s chief of staff, will lead Research Administration Services in the interim, according to the email.

“We will be sharing more details on the interim coverage plan in the next couple of days,” Jordan and Stubbs wrote.

—Associate Managing Editor Claire Yuan contributed reporting.

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at tilly.robinson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @tillyrobin.

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at neil.shah@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @neilhshah15.

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