Rescheduled trial date conflicts with his teaching obligations
Harvard student activists wanted to “Reclaim Winthrop” from the faculty dean of the residential house because he represented disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein. The university’s undergraduate dean, Rakesh Khurana, even joined their sit-in.
Now Khurana has made clear that he would have removed Ronald Sullivan from Winthrop House regardless of how the law professor responded to the mob pressure to fire him.
ABC News reports that Sullivan told the federal judge overseeing Weinstein’s criminal trial that he would be leaving the legal team. This was a day before Khurana told Winthrop House that Sullivan and his wife, Stephanie Robinson, would not have their appointments renewed as faculty deans after their term concludes next month. (Both will remain law professors at Harvard, and Sullivan continues to lead the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute.)
According to his law school colleague Jeannie Suk Gersen, Sullivan told the court he had to withdraw because of teaching obligations this fall – the rescheduled date for the trial – not because of mob pressure.
“But I can imagine it was not easy wondering if your young child would wake up to see the house vandalized again with messages like ‘Down with Sullivan,'” Gersen wrote, referring to the student activism against Sullivan, some of which had allegedly racist undertones.
Sullivan and Robinson have two children. His most vocal antagonist, Crimson editor Danu Mudannayake, was accused of harassing black Winthrop House staff and their child for their perceived alliance with Sullivan. Mudannayake designed the allegedly racist depictions of Sullivan that she distributed around Winthrop, which is not her residential house.
But I can imagine it was not easy wondering if your young child would wake up to see the house vandalized again with messages like “Down with Sullivan”
— Jeannie Suk Gersen (@JeannieSuk) May 13, 2019
Even though The Harvard Crimson has since reported on unrelated complaints against Sullivan and Robinson, the first African-American faculty deans at Harvard, Khurana launched the “climate review” of Winthrop House in direct response to student complaints that Sullivan made them feel unsafe by representing an accused rapist.
It was the first such action taken against a faculty dean, leading the Harvard Black Law Students Association to accuse Harvard of “racist undertones” by investigating him. Sullivan made similar accusations.
A spokesperson for Weinstein told ABC News that the mob pressure on Sullivan represented a “sad moment for us all right now”:
We, as a country, have now reached the point when a Harvard lawyer and professor cannot serve his duty to, and belief in, the law and defend a person who may be deemed unpopular or unworthy of a legal defense by segments of the public.
IMAGE: Harvard Gazette