We previously discussed the opposition to House Dean Ronald S. Sullivan Jr, a Harvard Law professor, after he decided to represent accused sexual abuser Harvey Weinstein. The protests raise serious concerns over academic and professional freedom, particularly for law professors who often represent unpopular clients. The Harvard Administration did not offer significant support for such values and some deans participated or attended protests despite a letter from dozens of law professors raising the same concerns. The letter from Dean of Harvard College, Rakesh Khurana, is maddeningly vague and does not address any of these concerns over the reasons for firing Sullivan and his wife as deans at the Winstrop House.
While academics pride ourselves on speaking directly and clearly to issues, Khurana’s letter only referred his decision as being based on “a number of considerations.” One would think that an academic would address these serious allegations over academic and professional freedom. Instead, Khurana wrote:
“Over the last few weeks, students and staff have continued to communicate concerns about the climate in Winthrop House to the college. The concerns expressed have been serious and numerous. 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. I have concluded that the situation in the house is untenable.”
What is untenable? The complaints? What are his complaints based on… Sullivan’s ethical work as a lawyer for an unpopular client? Khurana seems to consider that immaterial to the considerations of a Harvard administrator.