In 2008, at the age of 30, Dr. Roland Fryer, Jr., became the youngest African-American to win tenure as an economics professor at Harvard University.
Now, Fryer is facing allegations of sexual misconduct and is under investigation by Harvard University and the state of Massachusetts.
Fryer, who grew up in a tough neighborhood in Lewisville, Texas and earned a Ph.D. in economics from Penn State University, has been on the faculty at Harvard since 2005 and has been a rising star in academia.
In a statement released by his lawyer, George J. Leontire, Fryer denied the allegations.
“It’s disgraceful the complainant’s lawyers have chosen to publicize their unproven accusations rather than to allow the legal process to determine the merits of their client’s claims,” said Leontire. “Professor Fryer looks forward to a full and impartial forum to address these outrageous allegations.”
Fryer rose to national prominence when he published a paper in 2016 titled “An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force. It asserted that racial bias was not used in police shootings.
The scholarship was condemned by scholar-activists and was cited by conservative television pundits who argued that the recent spate of shootings—often of unarmed Black men—were justified.
According to the Harvard Crimson, Fryer is the target of two investigations: one by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and the other by Harvard’s Office for Dispute Resolution, which investigates complaints of sexual and gender-based harassment under Title IX.
The paper quotes individuals who allege that Fryer engaged in widespread sexual misconduct at the Education Innovation Laboratory, known as EdLabs, the think tank he founded in 2008 that focuses on economics and the roots of racial inequality.
Fryer and another employee, reportedly, have been prohibited since March from entering the EdLabs.
“We are aware of and take seriously concerns raised about the treatment of staff in the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard University (EdLabs), including whether staff members have been treated with the dignity and respect they deserve,” Harvard spokeswoman Rachael Dane said in the statement.
The winner of a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2011, Fryer served as the chief equality officer for the New York City public school system from 2007 to 2008.
In the wake of the allegations, Fryer released a statement denying any wrongdoing.
“I fully recognize the seriousness of all forms of discrimination in our society and I have dedicated my entire academic career to battling for equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other category that may divide us,” he said. “Let me state unequivocally that I have not and would not engage in any discrimination or harassment of any form. Any claim to the contrary is patently false. …I have worked diligently to foster a deeply inclusive environment at EdLabs where all people and all perspectives from all walks of life are welcome and respected.”