Harvard Alumni for the Removal of Winthrop Faculty Dean Sullivan

Harvard Alumni for the Removal of Winthrop Faculty Dean Sullivan

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Paul Suh started this petition to Harvard University

We believe that Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr., has shown that he is unfit to be the Faculty Dean of Winthrop House and should be removed from that position.

Sullivan has indicated by his deeds and his words that he does not support survivors of sexual assault. He has chosen to be a defense attorney for Harvey Weinstein, who is charged with numerous counts of sexual assault. We do not dispute that Weinstein has a right to effective legal counsel and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. We do not dispute that Weinstein may engage Sullivan, a Harvard Law School professor, as his counsel and that Sullivan is free to accept the case. However, as Weinstein’s lawyer, Sullivan is working to discredit witnesses who are sexual-assault survivors and discourage additional witnesses from coming forward to tell their stories. Even outside of his work as a defense attorney, Sullivan has expressed his opinion that witnesses testifying against Economics professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr., in Harvard’s investigation of allegations of sexual harassment, have been coached and that the process “shows what the current [#MeToo] movement, some blood in the water, and good coaching [of witnesses] can produce.”

Sullivan as Faculty Dean of Winthrop House has responsibilities aside from those of a defense attorney or law professor. The Faculty Dean is the head of the House and sets the tone for the community of the House. His role is pastoral and encompasses taking care that all students in the House feel welcomed, supported, and safe.

Acting as a defense attorney in a sexual assault case is fundamentally incompatible with being the Faculty Dean of a residential House at Harvard. What kind of message is sent to sexual-assault survivors, other House residents, and the Harvard community at large when the head of a House makes excuses for attackers, blames survivors, and suggests that survivors are not to be believed? Even if Sullivan were to resign now as defense attorney for Weinstein, he has already shown that he lacks an understanding of the position of Faculty Dean of a House. His actions and statements to date have irrevocably tainted his moral authority and his standing in the community, and he can no longer fulfill the responsibilities of a Faculty Dean. The Harvard Crimson has published an undergraduate’s op-ed that describes how it feels to be a sexual-assault survivor assigned to live in Winthrop House.

Rather than address the central problem by removing Sullivan, Harvard has been taking the expedient route of transferring sexual-assault survivors out of Winthrop House and into other Houses. However, transferring students between Houses fails to meet Harvard’s obligation to provide Winthrop House residents with a Faculty Dean who is fit to lead.

For these reasons, we alumni demand that Harvard remove Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr., from the position of Faculty Dean of Winthrop House.

 

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