+8 votes
asked ago in General Economics Questions by (900 points)
The AEA Code of Professional Conduct states that "[t]he AEA seeks to create a professional environment with equal opportunity and fair treatment for all economists, regardless of age, sex, gender identity[...]" I was therefore somewhat surprised when someone was elected to the executive office who is currently under investigation by the state of Massachusetts for sex-based discrimination and harassment (https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2018/5/22/fryer-investigation/). When the person in question was nominated, this was not yet publically known but it became known during the voting period. Irrespective of the merits of the accusations and the eventual outcome of the investigation, this is a sad outcome that cannot be in anyone's interest.

Presumably, this is not so much an expression of the views of the AEA membership on the validity of the allegations but of their ignorance of them. It would be great if we would have policy statements of candidates and a designated discussion place on EconSpark for the next election. While I'm perfectly happy with the rest of the people elected,  I don't really know what their vision for the AEA is.

2 Answers

+1 vote
answered ago by (1.8k points)
While I voted Fryer, I wasn't aware of the investigation. While he should not be penalized until the investigation is completed and resolved, it would have been nice to be notified of it. From reading the article, it seems like the hostile work environment was probably the result of unintentional conduct and would have been best just to promptly confront and speak up when it happened. What I did find quite troubling was how pervasive the perceived threat of retaliation seemed to be in the minds of those working at the lab.
commented ago by (100 points)
You say that he should not be penalized until the investigation is completed and resolved, which is true.  But in these situations, we also shouldn't assume that the charges are a minor misunderstanding without the full details of the case.  Your comment makes it sound like it's the victims' fault for not coming forth sooner.  New information from the NYT piece after the investigation was concluded shows that complaints were filed to HR back in 2008.  Of course you couldn't have known that when you commented two months ago, but I think that illustrates how important it is to refrain from judging before we have all of the information.
commented ago by (1.8k points)
I need to make my assessment based on the information provided at the time however limited it at the time. I might have a different prior, but by no means it should be an indication that I would not update my posterior given more information (more on that after). Not sure what of my comment would make it sound like that when it acknowledges the sense of fear and threat of retaliation. In these cases, it is absolutely not the victims' fault by any means and there are many valid reasons for victims to come forward or to stay silent. Their first obligation it towards themselves and if they do speak up once should be grateful not condemn them for not or have not done so sooner.

Out of the multiple Title IX violations he is currently facing (investigated by Harvard University and by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination), multiple have concluded he engaged in "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature" against four women in his lab. Some of the women left the institution and others the field completely. In addition to the undisputed evidence presented in the reports as part of the investigations and retaliation, there isn't any presumption of innocence that holds any longer. What we have here is a serial harasser that engaged in abuse of power who is bound to join the AEA executive committee. I have been quite outspoken about the issue on Twitter and have spoken about it in multiple forums and with female economists that many were unaware of the issue. As someone who has benefited greatly from the efforts by the AEA Committee on the Status of Minority Groups in the Economics Profession, I believe having him on the AEA executive committee to be a complete fiasco. Everyone who I have talked to in the profession or in academia agrees that he should not be in the AEA executive committee given the recent developments in the case.

https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2018/11/28/fryer-investigation-concludes/
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/14/business/economy/harvard-roland-fryer-sexual-harassment.html
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/15/harvard-professor-roland-fryer-faces-reports-of-sexual-harassment.html
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https://twitter.com/Nosferican/status/1074434639220084736 (I communicated my thoughts the AEA Climate Survey)
I am by no means the only one to have made their indignation public on Twitter (e.g., @bencasselman, @SHamiltonian, @dynarski, @jodiecongirl, @evelyn_a_smith, @jenniferdoleac).

I also want to thank Michael Greinecker for having brought the issue.
commented ago by (980 points)
"Some of the women left the institution and others the field completely."

To be fair to RF, this part is only alleged.

"there isn't any presumption of innocence that holds any longer"

I take it you are not a constitutional scholar.
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While I agree that RF should not be on any AEA committee, it was the right thing to wait for the corroborating, convincing evidence provided by the NYT. I am satisfied with the process.
commented ago by (1.8k points)
The woman complained to HR and directly after Fryer sent the email (part of the evidence) that he would sent daily reports of her short-coming and mistakes. A few days later she left. What would be considered a smoking gun there?

The burden of proof is different for various proceedings and forums. The presumption of innocence hold until the guilty verdict and from the three investigations that concluded he was found guilty. Should the presumption of innocence be held after being found guilty?

I am glad he resigned, but a system should not rely on it. The bylaws should be amended to have a process in place within the system.
commented ago by (980 points)
edited ago by
That's exactly what you don't want to have at the AEA. Then we start arguing about due process, maybe with people pretending to know legal concepts such as presumption of innocence.  It's difficult enough for universities, imagine for the AEA. We're small enough that we can rely on peer pressure and common sense, as in this case. You may think he resigned a few weeks too late. Perhaps, but this doesn't seem to invoke the need for another grand committee.
commented ago by (980 points)
edited ago by
Also, you are wrong on your facts.

Premise:  I am not disputing that the case looks bad after looking at the preponderance of the evidence that the NY times uncovered. *I believe* he is guilty from a moral standpoint, and I find it  understandable, and troubling for our profession, that some individuals (women or men) may feel they need to leave the profession after experiencing near contact with a PI's crotch, or rude jokes, or unwanted advances.

Your statement: "The woman complained to HR and directly after Fryer sent the email (part of the evidence) that he would sent daily reports of her short-coming and mistakes. A few days later she left. What would be considered a smoking gun there?"

You don't seem to have thought about this evidence fairly. HR reached out to Fryer after the woman's complaint. I imagine they wanted to know his point of view. He responded that he would have kept them informed "on a regular basis". Seems rude, but on a court of law that's exactly what HR was asking: information. Retaliatory or not, that's a matter of investigation, and we don't have any evidence. And she left SEVEN MONTHS after, not a few days later, as you wrote. Therefore, before you state facts, please do your homework.  There is a second incident where a woman left a few days later, which looks pretty bad. That incident does not have a corroborating email from Fryer but apparently her doctor called. Maybe you confused the two. What I am saying is: we heard only one side. What makes it bad is that there are two (at least), not that there's any hard proof.

Secondly, where in the article do you see references to a guilty verdict and by what institution? I only see this statement "Rachael Dane, a Harvard spokeswoman, said the university was “aware of and take seriously concerns raised about the treatment of staff” but would not discuss or confirm any unresolved case."

Maybe you disagree. If this doesn't convince you that we don't want to have a similar discussion done by another AEA committee, I don't know what does. But I'm willing to change my mind after looking at the survey results. I would like to understand better how pervasive this problem is. If I had to believe twitter, I'd have to think most of my colleagues are perverted assholes. I must live in fantasy world.  Perfectly possible: we'll see.

Let me close my comment with my general point:  I am not disputing that the case looks bad after looking at the preponderance of the evidence that the NY times uncovered. *I believe* he is guilty from a moral standpoint and I find it  understandable, and troubling for our profession, that some individuals (women or men) may feel they need to leave the profession after experiencing near contact with a PI's crotch, or rude jokes, or unwanted advances.

PS I have no connection to Fryer. I saw him once in my life. I am glad he resigned and think he should have done it before the NYT article.
commented ago by (1.8k points)
I believe I did confuse the one with the email and the one with the doctor. It has been hard to track the cases given the anonymity and various takes from different outlets. Roland Fryer has talked multiple times and denied all the allegations. Isn't that his side? We have also heard from the investigators which reviewed the evidence through the draft reports featured on the news (that is the most trustworthy source, no?). There have been so many articles, but hopefully you can find the one I am found. Basically it stated that out of the two ODR investigations that are in the stage of sending out the final draft (the investigation has been finalized at that stage), it concludes that Fryer indeed engage in sexual harassment and another allegation (might have been the retaliation one). There are still pending investigations by Harvard ODR and the one by the State of Massachusetts, but at least two that have finalized did conclude misconduct (no longer an allegation, but the conclusion of an investigation). Since those two investigations are at the last stage (potentially an appeal stage after the final report) the reports might be more accessible at that time.

I am still unconvinced that self-reigning should be the last and only resort. For example, it may have worked in this case, but on the same day 83 misconduct complains against Justice Kavanaugh were dismissed since he is no longer under the jurisdiction of the court's disciplinary system. Will SCOTUS even investigate the allegations? Like I said, two months back had I known about it, I would have probably voted for him since no investigation had concluded misconduct by his part. Saying that it is an issue of allegations, he and she said, after two investigation concluded misconduct is wrong (unless it refers exclusively to the other three known cases which are still pending). I don't know about AEA grand committee experience, but at least some guidance should be expected. This week might it may have been sexual misconduct, but the next one could be academic dishonesty (e.g., Brian Wansink) or something else.

Whether the case has merits for a criminal proceeding it is yet to be determined, but it was serious enough to be a violation merit of action by Harvard.
commented ago by (980 points)
I understand your point,  I agree that some guidelines may be warranted. I am just a bit wary of setting up another committee of non-experts. And I agree it should be about more than harassment (just recently an authorship fiasco was uncovered, for example). There's a reason for due process and it is upsetting that the crime of a few is generating a hostile environment.
0 votes
answered ago by (870 points)
edited ago by
I find it an excellent suggestion to ask candidates for their vision on how they plan to execute their task. They should also answer questions here.

As now the Statements of Purpose of the nominated candidates are out here:
https://www.aeaweb.org/about-aea/leadership/election-candidates
I have a first question to candidate for President-Elect David Card and the Nominating Committee  that I will also send them by email:
You write "In the past year the AEA has made some progress in trying to address the issue of professional climate, particularly for women and minorities. As the recent Climate Survey showed, however, much more needs to be done, and this will be a top priority for me."
Could you please expand on what you are actually planning to do? And could you and the  Nominating Committee please explain in how far it could be good idea that only one candidate was nominated?
...