Harvard’s First Black Faculty Deans Removed Over Professor’s Decision to Represent Harvey Weinstein in Sexual Assault Cases
Harvard University announced that Professor Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. and his lecturer wife, Stephanie Robinson, will not return as faculty deans at the Winthrop House, an undergraduate residential house.
Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana sent an email to staff and students on Saturday informing them the two would not return after their term ends in June, according to The New York Times. He communicated in the email that “ a number of considerations” went into his decision.
Read the letter here.
The decision appeared to follow Professor Sullivan’s decision to represent Harvey Weinstein in his sexual assault cases in January.
“Over the last few weeks, students and staff have continued to communicate concerns about the climate in Winthrop House to the college,” Khurana explained. “The concerns expressed have been serious and numerous. The actions that have been taken to improve the climate have been ineffective, and the noticeable lack of faculty dean presence during critical moments has further deteriorated the climate in the house. I have concluded that the situation in the house is untenable.”
Apparently, students launched a movement to have the professor removed after his decision was made. Although the protest was understandable, the move basically emboldened students and puts administrators in an extremely fragile position. School administrators may buckle every time there is a situation in which students feel they should have a say so.
He even addressed students’ concerns with a statement.
“It is particularly important for this category of unpopular defendant to receive the same process as everyone else — perhaps even more important,” Sullivan wrote.
“To the degree, we deny unpopular defendants basic due process rights we cease to be the country we imagine ourselves to be. In fact, most of the due process rights we hold dearest derive from lawyers who represented unpopular defendants.”
Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. and Stephanie Robinson are the first Black faculty deans to serve at Harvard.
Sullivan will remain a law professor at Harvard. He was instrumental in helping former President Barack Obama on criminal justice issues in 2008 while he was a senator, he was responsible for the release of more than 6,000 wrongfully incarcerated people, and he served as Michael Brown’s family’s legal counsel in their suit against the city of Ferguson, Missouri. Sullivan believes everyone, no matter the crime, deserves expert legal representation.
Harvey Weinstein is expected to go on trial for rape and other charges in September.