VIDEO: Harvard dean who repped Harvey Weinstein UNLEASHES after losing job
Harvard University administrators terminated law professor Ronald Sullivan and his wife Stephanie Robinson as faculty deans after Sullivan agreed to represent former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in his criminal trial.
The school announced in May that Sullivan and Robinson would not be renewed as faculty deans of Harvard residence Winthrop House, in a report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
Harvard students and faculty criticized Sullivan’s decision and started a petition calling for the dean’s removal.
“For those of you who are members of Winthrop House, do you really want to one day accept your Diploma from someone who for whatever reason, professional or personal, believes it is okay to defend such a prominent figure at the centre of the #MeToo movement?” the petition reads. “Although anyone facing the law is innocent until proven guilty, the scope of the Weinstein case still literally shakes people on this campus to this day. His role on Weinstein's team, and position as a community leader, are NOT mutually exclusive and the former has incredibly harmful implications for the latter.”
Graffiti on a campus building read “Our rage is self-defense,” and “Whose side are you on?” according to The New York Times.
“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,” Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana in a May email to Winthop residents. “I have concluded that the situation in the House is untenable.”
Sullivan and Robinson released a video statement June 12 titled, “When Harvard Stumbles,” addressing Harvard’s decision.
“It was my willingness to represent Mr. Weinstein in the first place that prompted a furor, and ultimately Harvard’s decision to dismiss us as faculty deans,” Sullivan says in the video. “We know this to be true, as does the Harvard community, including its most senior leaders.”
Sullivan stepped down from Weinstein’s legal team a day before Harvard announced his termination due to conflicts with his Harvard Law teaching schedule.
“What’s at stake here is not my future, or ours, or even our family’s. We will be fine,” Sullivan continued. “What is at stake are the values that underwrite the best traditions of higher education, the very same traditions that have sustained Harvard for nearly 400 years. In America, everyone is entitled to a defense, in America, everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and in America, everyone is entitled to due process of law under our Constitution.”
Sullivan also suggested that he believes Harvard, in this case, “abandon[ed] its commitments to academic freedom and open and unfettered debate.”
“Harvard’s administrators acted in ways grossly antagonistic to the very norms that make Harvard the epitome of higher education,” he continued.
Sullivan’s wife Robinson later remarked in the video that there is a distinction between “dissent” and “demonization.”
Columbia University law professor Elizabeth Lederer faced similar opposition recently for serving as lead prosecutor on the team that convicted five men in an assault case known as the Central Park Five more than three decades ago, as reported by Inside Higher Ed.
Students started a petition demanding that Lederer step down from her teaching position at Columbia Law School after Netflix released “When They See Us,” a series highlighting the experiences of the Central Park Five, who were wrongfully convicted of rape and sexual assault in the Central Park Jogger case of 1989.
Lederer stepped down from her teaching position this June. Neither the university nor Lederer commented on her departure. Additionally, she has not publicly commented on the Netflix series or her role in the court case.
“Lawyers are not an extension of their clients,” Sullivan told the New York Times. “Lawyers do law work, not the work of ideology. When I’m in my lawyer capacity, representing a client, even one publicly vilified, it doesn’t mean I’m supporting anything the client may have done.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @ethanycai