Thank you for your email from Sept. 12. I was relieved to hear that though Harvard may be hosting Roland Fryer’s new institute, you do not endorse the large-scale experiments being carried out on inner-city students to pay them for good test scores and the like.
However, I was disturbed to discover from a recent Washington Post article that Harvard’s name is printed on the checks that DC students receive from participating in this experiment, which appears to be a blatant attempt to exploit the good name of Harvard, and implies a literal endorsement by your institution:
“Others [students] sat quietly and studied the pale green checks with "
Moreover, today’s Washington Post discusses the research that points to the possibility of a long-term decline in student morale and motivation resulting from such incentives – especially when the money runs out. As DePaul University Professor Ronald Chennault, is quoted as saying,
“…there are ethical issues involved, most of which are experimental and dependent on private funding and local political support. "The potential for harm is, what happens after the incentive no longer exists?" Chennault asked. "Not everything is worth trying." (Incentives Can Make Or Break Students,” November 2, 2008).
I wonder what Harvard’s attitude would be if this were instead a large-scale medical experiment on inner-city students, which earlier research had indicated posed a long term risk to their physical health – and whether you would want your institution’s name associated with it.
Finally, your letter did not respond to the question posed in my earlier email about whether it was appropriate for Professor Fryer to be in charge of evaluating the results of his own experiments – a practice contrary to accepted academic practice, which requires independent evaluation.
Please let me know if you think that 1- Harvard’s name on the checks awarded inner-city students does not imply Harvard’s endorsement of this experiment; 2- whether these experiments, if they are to occur at all, should not be small scale in nature -- rather than applied to half of all middle school students, as they in DC public schools, especially as the research points to a substantial risk of long-term harm; and 3- whether you think its appropriate that Prof. Fryer should evaluate the results of his own experiments.
Executive Director, Class Size Matters