A Coach Cashiered
On July 9, The Harvard Crimson and The Boston Globe reported that Peter Brand, head fencing coach since 1999, had been dismissed. A statement released by director of athletics Robert L. Scalise said: “In April, Harvard was made aware of allegations involving Peter Brand….An independent investigation of the matter is now complete, and Mr. Brand has been dismissed from his position for violating Harvard’s conflict of interest policy. Harvard Athletics is committed to upholding the integrity of our athletics program, and it is our expectation that every coach and staff member adhere unambiguously to our policies.”
In an email to the athletics staff, he elaborated, “Harvard’s conflicts policy specifically addresses ‘personal benefit’ and states that ‘[a] conflict of interest exists when individual commitment to the University may be compromised by personal benefit.’ The policy also states that ‘[f]ailure to disclose possible conflict of interest or commitment…may be grounds for disciplinary action and may lead to termination.’”
Neither Scalise nor officers of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which oversees athletics, were available to elaborate, and the athletics website merely noted in a remarkably anodyne message on its home page, “Harvard to begin national search for men’s and women’s fencing coach.” That linked to the underlying observation that “Peter Brand…will not be returning for the 2019-2020 season….”
The Globe reported in April that Brand had sold his suburban house for an above-market price to the father of a varsity fencer, and of an applicant for admission (who subsequently gained admission and joined the fencing team). Brand reportedly then bought a condominium near campus for an inflated price, and the purchaser of his house subsequently sold it, without having occupied it, at a significant loss. (See links to the Globe and other coverage at harvardmag.com/brand-19.)
The conflict-of-interest reporting required of staff annually is not ambiguous. It covers all “athletic-related outside income”; use of the institution’s name or logo for endorsements; and accepting outside compensation or gratuities from shoe, apparel, or equipment manufacturers in exchange for using their merchandise in practice or competition. Line items for sums to be reported include a dozen categories such as speaking engagements, housing benefits, and camps, plus “other (please specify).” The language notes that a conflict “exists when an individual commitment to the University may be compromised by personal benefit,” among other definitions. And, “Employees should pay special attention to ensuring that they maintain the proper relationship between themselves and third parties with whom they come into contact in the course of performing their jobs for the University. These parties may include, but are not limited to…potential students. Personal gain resulting from a relationship with a third party must be avoided.”
~John S. Rosenberg
A Professor Sanctioned
Continuing the run of adverse summer news, on July 10, Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) dean Claudine Gay notified Lee professor of economics and professor of education Roland G. Fryer Jr. and the economics department that Fryer has been placed on administrative leave for two years, to be followed by two years of supervised probationary return to academic engagements, as a result of investigations of his “unwelcome sexual conduct toward several individuals, resulting in the creation of a hostile work environment over the course of several years” within his Education Innovation Laboratory (EdLabs).
Based on the Office of Dispute Resolution investigation of allegations made against Fryer, who joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 2006, Gay also determined that he had engaged in “behavior that was not sexual harassment but that constituted violations of the FAS Professional Conduct Policy.”
During the two-year administrative (unpaid) leave, Fryer cannot teach or advise within FAS, or conduct research involving Harvard resources, and the EdLab is closed. During the subsequent two-year probationary period, he may return to academic work (but not to a supervisory role), subject to the conditions that: his undergraduate teaching is at the dean’s discretion and subject to monitoring by a Title IX-trained individual, and will not involve any graduate teaching fellows; and his graduate teaching is limited to a class format, excluding workshops. At the end of that two-year, supervised period, Gay will assess whether Fryer may be reinstated to regular academic privileges. No mention was made about whether Fryer’s tenured status has changed.
On July 11, Harvard Graduate School of Education dean Bridget Terry Long issued a statement saying she had “decided that the sanctions determined by Dean Gay are also appropriate and necessary to apply to Professor Fryer’s partial appointment at HGSE.”
The case attracted enormous attention because Fryer is a leading economics researcher (he is both a MacArthur Fellow and a John Bates Clark Medalist—conferred by the American Economic Association on the best American economist under age 40); he is a prominent African American in a discipline struggling to become more diverse; and his case, meant to be conducted confidentially, had leaked extensively, beginning in May 2018 in The Harvard Crimson. According to some of those prior reports, Fryer was prohibited from entering his lab during at least part of the protracted investigations. Locally, Gay’s decision comes at a time of heightened attention to sexual assault and harassment, and follows her decision to strip long-time professor Jorge Domínguez of his emeritus status, effectively banning him from the community, following “unwelcome sexual conduct toward several individuals, on multiple occasions over a period spanning nearly four decades.”
A complete report on Gay’s decision appears at harvardmag.com/fryer-19.
Allston Partnership Proposal
The Harvard Allston Land Company (HALC), organized in late 2018 to direct development of the commercial “Enterprise Research Campus” (ERC) across Western Avenue from the Business School, has set a brisk pace, issuing a request for proposal (RFP) to developers nationwide on June 14. It seeks a partner to build on a 14.1-acre parcel just east of the science and engineering complex, set to open next year. Uses approved by Boston’s development authority for this tract—the initial piece of the 36 Harvard-owned acres designated for the ERC—include 400,000 square feet of lab/office space (presumably in two buildings); a 250,000-square-foot hotel/conference center; and 250,000 square feet of residential facilities. There is also provision for 800 to 900 parking spaces.
HALC CEO Thomas Glynn described a two-part process. First, developers will present their capabilities and relevant experience: have they, for example, built hotels and life-sciences labs, or worked previously in a similar urban setting and with an academic institution? Second, early this fall, Harvard will seek details of financing, building proposals, and design. Glynn hopes to have a recommendation for the HALC’s board, chaired by business school dean Nitin Nohria, by year’s end.
Photograph by Stephanie Mitchell/HPAC
By then, who pays what for infrastructure (roads, sewers, utilities) and the terms for use of the University property will have to be settled. Boston’s permitting process will follow, Glynn said, with input from the community and regulatory authorities. If all proceeds smoothly, two years of construction would ensue, meaning the area—now a cleared expanse of former trucking yards—might open for business by mid decade.
The site is the gateway to a larger commercial zone. Development of 22 adjacent acres will occur in a second phase, with details and timing turning on realignment of the nearby Massachusetts Turnpike and construction of a new mass-transit station—complex, expensive undertakings.
Hiring a single development firm, with its own architects, engineers, financial and construction managers, government-relations personnel, and others, will help ensure that the resulting project is coherent in all its elements, from the look of the streetscape to integration with designated open spaces. And because the profit margins for the labs and offices will likely exceed those for the hotel and residential buildings, Glynn suggested that including them in one RFP creates cross-subsidies that are likely to result in a better outcome. Read a complete report at harvardmag.com/rfp-erc-2019.
New Union Negotiations
More than a year after graduate students voted to form a labor union, in April 2018, the Harvard Graduate Student Union-United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW) and the University are still negotiating an initial contract agreement. On July 15, about 300 HGSU-UAW members wrote in an open letter to President Lawrence S. Bacow that they intended to hold a strike authorization vote “if the Harvard administration’s bargaining team continues to put forward untenable positions for negotiation and prevents us from attaining a fair contract.” An authorization would not necessarily result in a strike. Instead, it would empower the HGSU-UAW bargaining committee to call one when it believes necessary, prompting graduate students to withhold their work as course instructors and lab researchers.
The past year has been punctuated by protests and petitions in which organizers for the more than 5,000-member union have called on the University to be more accommodating of members’ bargaining priorities, and to schedule more frequent negotiation sessions so that progress can be made more quickly. On the latter point, Harvard officials have responded that this is a first contract for a new, large union across many University schools, so it will have wide-ranging and complex consequences that need to be worked through. HGSU-UAW’s goals include better pay and health benefits (for example, graduate students don’t currently have access to subsidized dental insurance, as Harvard employees do); and the creation of neutral, third-party grievance procedures for complaints of sexual harassment, for example. Currently, sexual-harassment cases are investigated by Harvard’s Office for Dispute Resolution, which the union argues could result in findings biased toward the University; in turn, the institution has argued that it cannot have separate processes for evaluating such complaints.
Although the wage and compensation proposals haven’t been publicly released, Harvard officials have said that HGSU-UAW’s proposals would have a significant fiscal impact. An April message from Provost Alan M. Garber said of the economic proposals, “University expenditures per graduate student would approximately double….Were the University to agree…there would likely be direct consequences for the number of graduate students who could be supported.” Harvard has offered funds that students could draw on for dental care, childcare, and other needs, and pay raises of 3 percent in year one of the contract, and 2.25 percent in the next two years. (This past year, graduate students received a 3 percent stipend increase.) It also proposed raising its minimum wage for non-salaried student workers to $15 an hour. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, inflation in the Boston area was 2.3 percent over the last year.
Graduate students at other private universities including Brown, Georgetown, Tufts, and Brandeis have also unionized, but the security of students’ collective bargaining rights is uncertain. The National Labor Relations Board ruled in August 2016 that graduate students at private universities had the right to form unions, but this past May the federal agency announced it would revisit that decision—suggesting that it might reverse its position for the fourth time since 2000.
~Marina N. Bolotnikova