Mark Pincus: Biden Is Even Riskier Than Trump


Economist Roland Fryer on Adversity, Race, and Refusing to Conform

A little over two years ago, in the pages of The Free Press, Pano Kanelos announced that he was starting a new university in Austin dedicated to the fearless pursuit of truth…

A little over two years ago, in the pages of The Free Press, Pano Kanelos announced that he was starting a new university in Austin dedicated to the fearless pursuit of truth. The headline was stark: “We Can't Wait For Universities to Fix Themselves. So We're Starting a New One.” I was one of the founding trustees.

The announcement generated a lot of headlines. As expected, a lot of people dunked on it. They said, “why in a country with thousands of colleges and universities do we need a new one?” They said it was fake; they said we didn’t have real students. They said it was a “cancel culture grift.” 

Two years later, not only is UATX a very real university but in 2024, the school will accept 100 students in the inaugural class—students who won’t just be consumers but founders.

To get a sense of what this school—and this cohort—is all about, there is no better thing to do than to listen to today’s episode: a conversation with Harvard economist Roland Fryer, recorded live last weekend in front of these prospective students.

Roland Fryer is one of the most celebrated economists in the world. He is the author of more than 50 papers—on topics ranging from “the economic consequences of distinctively black names” to “racial differences in police shootings.” At 30, he became the youngest black tenured professor in Harvard's history. At 34, he won a MacArthur Genius Fellowship, followed by a John Bates Clark Medal, which is given to an economist in America under 40 who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.

But before coming to Harvard, Fryer worked at McDonalds—drive-through, not corporate. 

Fryer’s life story of rapid ascent to academic celebrity status despite abandonment by his parents at a young age, and growing up in what he calls a “drug family” is incredibly inspiring in its own right. Because based on every statistic and stereotype about race and poverty in America, he should not have become the things he became. And yet he did. 

He also continues to beat the odds in a world in which much of academia has become conformist. Time and time again, Fryer refuses to conform. He has one north star, and that is the pursuit of truth, come what may. The pursuit of truth no matter how unpopular the conclusion or inconvenience to his own political biases. He’s also rare in that he isn’t afraid to admit when he’s wrong, or to admit his mistakes and learn from them.

This conversation was inspiring, courageous, and long overdue. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

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