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Harvard University’s head fencing coach was dismissed because of accusations of violating the university’s conflict-of-interest policy.
The policy prohibits Harvard employees from participating in situations that would benefit them personally but could also affect how they perform their responsibilities for the university.
According to Harvard, Coach Peter Brand breached this policy when he closed a deal with Jie Zhao, a businessman whose son was later admitted to the university and the fencing team. Zhao’s other son has graduated from Harvard in 2018 and was also a member of the fencing team.
In 2016, Brand sold his house in Massachusetts, United States, to Zhao. Based on investigations, Zhao bought Brand’s house for $989,500 when its actual estimated value was less than $550,000. Zhao did not live in the house and sold it for a much lower value 17 months later. Harvard suspects that the deal was made to help Zhao’s son enter the university and the fencing team.
The two men have known each other since Zhao’s older son became part of Brand’s fencing team. However, Zhao insisted that their real estate deal was not a bribe to get his other son into the university. He explained that buying the house was a good investment and a way to financially help Brand. He also added that his son had good academic standing and could get admitted to Harvard without any help.
Brand, on the other hand, refuses to speak about the issue. However, his lawyer Douglas Brooks criticized the university’s decision to dismiss Brand. Brooks believes that the act was a disservice to Brand, who has worked for the university for two decades. He also mentioned that Brand is planning to sue Harvard.