Harvard not renewing Harvey Weinstein lawyer as dean – The Boston Globe
Harvard spokeswoman Rachael Dane resisted the suggestion that Sullivan was losing his post because of his representation of Weinstein, saying the decision âwas informed by a number of considerations.â
She noted that the climate review revealed serious concerns about Sullivanâs leadership, but also pointed to complaints about his leadership from fellow staffers that predated the Weinstein controversy and were outlined in a Harvard Crimson story on Friday.
âWeâve partnered with the house on interventions in the past but those measures havenât really proved sufficient,â she said.
In recent weeks, the angry rift over Sullivanâs dueling behind-the-scenes roles has exploded into public view.
A married couple who works for Sullivan in Winthrop House filed a defamation lawsuit.against the faculty dean of another house over e-mails and texts she sent about them. The lawyer handling the defamation case, George J. Leontire, is a friend of Sullivanâs who worked side-by-side with him on the legal team that got former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez acquitted of double murder charges.
In the defamation case, Leontire has subpoenaed five Harvard faculty members or students, including a reporter for the student newspaper from whom he has demanded all communications regarding Sullivan.
Leontire did not respond to a request for comment Saturday.
Tension continued to rise as faculty members intervened for and against student protestors and students staged an occupation of Winthrop House to âreclaim it as a safe spaceâ for survivors of sexual assault.
On Friday, the student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, published a story detailing Winthrop House staffersâ complaints about Sullivanâs leadership dating back several years that described a toxic and hostile environment.
Sullivan and his wife issued a statement saying they would âtake some time to process Harvardâs actions and consider our options. â
âWe are surprised and dismayed by the action Harvard announced today. We believed the discussions we were having with high level University representatives were progressing in a positive manner, but Harvard unilaterally ended those talks,â they wrote.
âWe are sorry that Harvardâs actions and the controversy surrounding us has contributed to the stress on Winthrop students at this already stressful time,â they added.
Finals begin at Harvard on Monday.
Danu A.K. Mudannayake, the student who launched the opposition to Sullivanâs role, said she was gratified that the administration had heard studentsâ concerns.
âLiving in the time of the #MeToo movement and seeing people discredit that and also the [Supreme Court Justice Brett] Kavanaugh trials, I think thatâs why this win â even if it is localized to our campus â means a lot for a lot of other people,â Mudannayake said. âIt empowers voices that constantly are criticized and pushed down and donât get given the kind of rights to be heard.â
Since February, students have demonstrated against Sullivan, saying that the role as a high-profile defender of the the leading villain of the #MeToo movement was incompatible with his duties as a faculty adviser who lives and works among undergraduates and sets the tone for their college experience.
Sullivan defenders pushed back, saying that with their sensitivity to an of-the-moment controversy, students were forsaking the principles of the American justice system.
Leontire recently told the Globe that students were unfairly tagging Weinsteinâs attorney for Weinsteinâs alleged crimes. He likened the current climate to the âSalem witch trials,â saying that anyone associated with #MeToo allegations would be punished, âno matter how theyâre connected.â
Mudannayake called such an interpretation âidiocy.â
âBoth Sullivan and Leontire do a very good job of making people like myself .Â .Â . look like the kind of snowflake-y liberals who want every man to be put in jail for no good reason,â she said.
She said the lawyers were missing her point â that Sullivan is not only a well-known law professor at Harvard, but a resident adviser to students who may have experienced sexual assault.
She noted that she is not protesting against Alan Dershowitz â the Harvard Law professor emeritus now under fire for his role negotiating a plea deal that allowed Florida billionaire Jeffrey Epstein to escape federal sex trafficking charges.
âI donât have any right to tell a law school professor what they can and cannot do,â Mudannayake said. âThereâs just such a huge difference when it comes to being a faculty dean and the roles and responsibilities.â
Mudannayake pointed to the escalating controversy in recent weeks and what she called âopen retaliationâ for her efforts.
The resident tutors who filed a defamation suit also filed a police report against her for alleged harassment during a dispute in the Winthrop dining hall in which Mudannayake believed one of the tutors was videotaping her. Leontire threatened to file a harassment complaint against her under Title IX, the federal law that guards against sexual and gender discrimination in education, for undetermined reasons.
âAcross the country, across the globe weâre experiencing a moment in which there is a lot of momentum on sexual assault and a willingness to speak up,â Mudannayake said. âBut there is a lot of resistance too. We just didnât need that coming from within our homes.â
As faculty deans, Sullivan and his wife supervise a team of other adult staffers in overseeing the undergraduate residential complex where students spend much of their time. Some of the staffers who report to them had raised complaints about Sullivan well before the Weinstein controversy, according to the Friday Crimson story. Those staffers faulted Harvard administrators, including Khurana, for failing to adequately address a toxic climate in the Winthrop House, where they alleged management problems and alleged retaliation against those insufficiently supportive of Sullivan.
More than half of the Winthrop resident tutor staff made a pact to leave the House in protest in 2016, though they ultimately stayed, the Crimson wrote.
The Crimson story also described a January meeting with Winthrop House staff on the Weinstein controversy back in which Sullivan had allegedly berated a Winthrop tutor and accused her of organizing students against him and his wife.
Khurana called his decision to not keep Sullivan and Robinson on as faculty deans âa regrettable situation and a very hard decision to make. I have long admired your Faculty Deansâ commitment to justice and civic engagement, as well as the good work they have done in support of diversity in their House community.â
Sullivan and his wife were the first African-American appointed faculty deans in 2009; another African-American couple has been named since that time.
Sullivan told the New Yorker in March that he believes that some of the attacks against him may be racially motivated.
In that interview, he also resisted criticizing students for their activism against him, instead faulting the administration for responding to it.
âItâs in the nature of students to protest,â he told the New Yorker. âThe adults in the room, however, do not have to react in the way that they have.â
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