Harvard Business School’s Francesca Gino
Francesca Gino could be the first person ever to be stripped of tenure at Harvard University
If Harvard Business School is successful in stripping Professor Francesca Gino of tenure, it could be the very first time any faculty member at Harvard University has lost the lifetime protection tenure offers a faculty member.
Harvard’s Office of the President notified Gino that it had begun the process of reviewing her tenure on July 28 over allegations of research misconduct, nine years to the month in which she was promoted to a full professor and granted tenure by Harvard Business School on July 1 of 2014. HBS Dean Srikant Datar had already put Gino on an unpaid administrative leave, banned her from campus, revoked her named professorship, and prevented the professor from publishing on Harvard Business School platforms. Gino’s lawyers, who filed a $25 million lawsuit against Harvard, HBS Dean Datar and the authors of the Data Colada blog that initially alleged data fraud in her research, confirmed that the process had begun.
If Gino loses tenure, it would likely be the first time Harvard University has forcibly stripped a tenured faculty member’s position since the 1940s, when the American Association of University Professors formalized rules around tenure. Tenured faculty have long been considered invincible. More often than not, professors who are under pressure from a university administration voluntarily surrender their tenure or simply retire.
GINO COULD BE THE FIRST HARVARD PROFESSOR TO BE STRIPPED OF TENURE EVER
Harvard’s own rules maintain that it has the power to dismiss a tenured professor “only for grave misconduct or neglect of duty,” though it does not define those terms.
The Harvard Crimson, the university’s student newspaper, noted the challenges of the process. “Gino’s tenure review promises to be a complex process, even without considering the ongoing lawsuit,” according to the Crimson. “Before the Harvard Corporation — the University’s highest governing body — makes a final determination, the complaint must pass through reviews by two separate bodies. First, a Screening Committee must make an initial assessment of the claims against Gino. If it decides further action is warranted, this first committee makes a recommendation to a Hearing Committee. This second committee, composed of tenured professors, then conducts an investigation and recommends further action to the Corporation, which has final jurisdiction over tenure revocation.”
That review will occur while Gino’s lawsuit moves forward in U.S. District Court in Boston. Gino received the notice from Harvard five days before she filed her Aug. 2 lawsuit alleging defamation, breach of contract and gender discrimination.
AN HBS COMMITTEE FOUND GINO RESPONSIBLE FOR RESEARCH MISCONDUCT
An award-winning behavioral scientist at Harvard Business School, Gino was first accused of fabricating data by Data Colada in July of 2021 when authors of the blog approached Harvard Business School with their allegations. According to her lawsuit, Dean Datar negotiated a secret agreement with Data Colada, putting off the publication of their posts until HBS had the opportunity to investigate the claims. After an 18-month-long investigation by a three-person committee of former and current HBS professors, the panel concluded that Gino was responsible for research misconduct. Dean Data accepted the committee’s verdict and suggested punishment on June 13th of this year. Gino has maintained her innocence throughout, raising questions about the fairness of the process as well as the harshness of the penalties imposed on her.
Word of the school’s findings quickly leaked out. A mere three days later, in a June 16th article entitled A Weird Research-Misconduct Scandal About Dishonesty Just Got Weirder, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that one of Gino’s co-authors claimed that Harvard found that one study contained even more fraudulent data than previously revealed and was now asking the journal to note this new information. It was quickly followed within 24 hours by more detailed reporting by Data Colada with the start of a four-part series examining data in four separate studies co-authored by Gino. “We wrote a report about four studies for which we had accumulated the strongest evidence of fraud,” the blog authors asserted. “We believe that many more Gino-authored papers contain fake data. Perhaps dozens.”
HBS Dean Datar sent an email to the school’s faculty on the Chronicle’s article. “Last Friday,” he wrote, “the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article describing concerns that have been raised about the research of a member of our faculty, Francesca Gino, as well as steps the School is taking with journals and co-authors to correct the scientific record. Other outlets are beginning to carry stories as well. While I know you may have questions, confidentiality is an important consideration in these matters. I realize this runs counter to our longstanding norms of transparency and communication but hope that you can appreciate and understand the reasons for this approach.
DEAN DATAR HAD THE SCHOOL’S WEBSITE MAKE CLEAR THAT GINO WAS PLACED ON ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE
“As reflected on Professor Gino’s public Faculty & Research page, she is now on an administrative leave. We have been taking steps to ensure that her responsibilities are transitioned-working, for example, with the Doctoral Programs leadership to support PhD students, and with the leaders of our educational programs to adjust teaching assignments. I am grateful to those of you who have stepped up to help. If you have a question about an activity or collaboration and have not yet been contacted, please let me know.
“Research integrity is and must be one of our core values as an institution. I am grateful for your unwavering commitment to advancing knowledge and for being a vital part of our vibrant research communitv.”
Many in the faculty were shocked, if not horrified. They believed Gino was a person of high integrity and would never have manipulated data in a study. In fact, every witness interviewed by the committee that investigated the charges said exactly that.
Harvard has consistently declined public comment on the case, but after Gino file her lawsuit, he wrote another email to the faculty defending his decision to discipline Gino. ” I ultimately accepted the investigation committee’s recommended sanctions, which included immediately placing Professor Gino on administrative leave and correcting the scientific record (a measure incumbent on every responsible academic institution when research misconduct is found),” Datar wrote. “I did so after consulting confidentially with a small number of individuals at HBS and Harvard, including senior faculty members here at the School, as is permitted by our policy. The sanctions reflect a shared belief that the misconduct represented a significant violation of academic integrity and that the evidence not only met but surpassed the applicable preponderance of evidence standard. I shared my conclusions with Professor Gino and, in accordance with our policy and consistent with University practice, began implementing the institutional actions.”
Gino’s lead attorney, Andrew Miltenberg, was little impressed byDatar’s defense. “Dean Datar’s email to faculty leaves many questions unanswered,” he told Poets&Quants. “For example, why was a brand new policy put in place in 2021 for Professor. Gino, and yet it was only now – in 2023 – being shared with faculty?,” he asks. “And furthermore, why were faculty not consulted at all on this new policy? Why specifically was Harvard abandoning its former policy and tailoring a new one specifically for Professor Gino? And why, after they rushed to put it in place, did Harvard fail to follow that policy as stated?”
DON’T MISS: WHAT FRANCESCA GINO’S HARVARD LAWSUIT SAYS ABOUT DATA COLADA’S FRAUD ALLEGATIONS or THE ACADEMIC MOB COMES FOR A HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL THOUGHT LEADER
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