Harvard Fires Fencing Coach for Selling Property to Aspiring Student Athlete’s Father

Category : Education/Family

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. dismiss / dɪsˈmɪs / (v) – to remove someone from his or her job

    The school dismissed nine employees to cut costs.

  2. breach / britʃ / (v) – to violate a rule or law

    The school principal breached the university’s privacy policy after he gave out a student’s information.

  3. bribe / braɪb / (n) – money or property illegally given to someone to influence him or her to do something

    The parents of the student who was accused of cheating gave the teacher expensive jewelry as a bribe to keep their child from being expelled.

  4. standing / ˈstæn dɪŋ / (n) – someone’s status or rank in a specific field or activity

    Students with good academic standing during high school can usually get into prestigious universities.

  5. disservice / dɪsˈsɜr vɪs / (n) – an action that causes harm to someone

    Not providing healthcare benefits is a disservice to employees.


Read the text below.

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.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you agree that the deal between Brand and Zhao was a violation of the conflict-of-interest policy? Why or why not?
• In your opinion, should Brand return as a coach in Harvard if he can prove that he is innocent? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• Do you think a conflict-of-interest policy should be implemented in all universities? Why or why not? Explain.
• Aside from universities, where else should a conflict-of-interest policy be implemented? Discuss.

Category : Education/Family