Randall Kennedy is one of those rare voices in academia who questions the prevailing leftist orthodoxy from the left.
The veteran Harvard Law School professor, noted for his scholarship on race, has denounced the campus sexual assault documentary The Hunting Ground as “propaganda,” urged students not to invent racism out of thin air, and mocked another university for its “farce” of punishing a white professor who used the n-word in a class discussion of … the n-word.
Now he’s taking on his own university (again) for punishing his law colleague Ronald Sullivan on the basis of representing Harvey Weinstein in his criminal trial on sexual assault charges.
Kennedy writes in The New York Times that Harvard would have fired the civil rights legend and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall under the test it used to force Sullivan out of his position as faculty dean of Winthrop House.
While Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana didn’t mention Sullivan’s representation of Weinstein as a conflict with his role of faculty dean, “[t]he upshot is that Harvard College appears to have ratified the proposition that it is inappropriate for a faculty dean to defend a person reviled by a substantial number of students,” Kennedy writes.
He asks how Harvard might respond to similar student complaints of feeling unsafe with other kinds of house leaders:
Suppose atheist students claimed that they did not feel “safe” confiding in a faculty dean who was an outspoken Christian or if conservative students claimed that they did not feel “safe” confiding in a faculty dean who was a prominent leftist. … One would hope that they would say that the acceptability of a faculty dean must rest upon the way in which he meets his duties, not on his personal beliefs or professional associations. One would hope, in short, that Harvard would seek to educate its students and not simply defer to vague apprehensions or pander to the imperatives of misguided rage.
Student activists are enraged at “anyone daring to breach the wall of ostracism surrounding” Weinstein, who is still presumed innocent, yet they showed no such qualms about Sullivan successfully representing a convicted murder, the late football player Aaron Hernandez, Kennedy notes.
Administrators could have stood up to these opponents of representation for unpopular defendants, but some of them obviously are “guided by an affinity for the belief that Mr. Sullivan’s representation of Mr. Weinstein constituted a betrayal of enlightened judgment,” he says.