Economist Roland Fryer Suspended from Harvard after Sexual Harassment Complaints

Fryer, a MacArthur Fellow and the youngest African-American to earn Harvard tenure, engaged in unwelcome sexual conduct at his research lab.


Photo via Getty Images/Roman Babakin

Harvard economics professor Roland G. Fryer has been placed on a two-year administrative leave, effective immediately, according to an email the dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, Claudine Gay, sent to economics department members Wednesday. The university found that Fryer violated the University’s sexual harassment policies.

The announcement comes a little over a year after Harvard and the state of Massachusetts opened an investigation of Fryer based on a Title IX complaint filed by one of his former research employees with the university’s Office for Dispute Resolution. According to a report from the Harvard Crimson last year, the complaint against Fryer alleges that he “spoke about sex in the workplace, made ‘sexually inappropriate comments’ to and about employees and others, and ‘objectified and sexualized’ women including female staffers.” Two more Title IX complaints followed.

In the investigation, the Office for Dispute Resolution found that the professor created a hostile work environment by engaging in unwelcome sexual conduct toward several people. They also found that he violated the faculty’s conduct policy in ways that were not sexual.

Under the terms of his leave, Fryer will not be allowed to research, teach, or supervise at the university or use the university’s resources. Fryer’s lab, EdLabs, will close permanently. If Gay decides to allow Fryer to return in two years, he will not be allowed to advise or supervise students for two years following, and will only teach undergraduate classes, under the supervision of a “Title-IX-trained” monitor, the Crimson reports.

The announcement has gained national attention, as Fryer is widely recognized for his work in economics. He is a MacArthur Fellow, and at age 30 became the youngest African-American to earn Harvard tenure.

When the investigation was first announced last year, Fryer denied all allegations.

“Let me state unequivocally that I have not—and would not—engage in any discrimination or harassment of any form,” Fryer wrote in a statement to the Crimson, provided by his lawyer. “Any claim to the contrary is patently false.”