“The Situation Is Untenable”: Harvard Law Professor Representing Weinstein Is Fired As House Dean After Protests

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.

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57 thoughts on ““The Situation Is Untenable”: Harvard Law Professor Representing Weinstein Is Fired As House Dean After Protests”

  1. It would appear that by firing a dean (and his wife?) due to his representation in criminal law court of an unpopular client that Harvard Law is unclear on its mission.

    See Stephen Jones, A Lawyer’s Ethical Duty to Represent the Unpopular Client, 1 Chap. … at: https://digitalcommons.chapman.edu/chapman-law-review/vol1/iss1/5.

    Lawyers, including law professors (let alone their wives!) should not be punished for merely doing what ethical rules require of them.

    This educational pandering to political correctness, even in a preeminent law school, even to the point of sanctioning law professors for representing clients is an unfortunate development and does not bode well for our profession. To say the least.

      1. miltontheelder:

        Both sides are utterly dishonorable and contemptible Leftist pawns. That’s why I wrote at 8:09 am:

        “The monster has turned on its creator. Regardless of outcome we’ll have one less enemy of freedom. I’ll get the popcorn.”

        Your article just confirms this intuition.

      2. Milton, the article confirms the reality that the right wing outrage ginned up against this event was completely misplaced. It had nothing to do with Harvard Law.

      3. I read the Harvard Crimson article you shared and the comment threat under it, as well as Danu Mudannayake’s essay on Medium.com giving her perspective on the controversies surrounding her, Dean Sullivan and Dean Stephanie Robinson (Sullivan’s wife) of Winthrop House, and other students at Winthrop and Elliot Houses.

        I find that hearing everyone’s viewpoints leaves me feeling stupid speaking out on an issue on which I had just Sullivan and Robinson’s perspective, when other viewpoints paint a different picture. I’m also impressed that this issue is almost Byzantine in its complexity. The least serious allegations against Deans Sullivan and Robinson aren’t covered at all in the major news reporting on the case, merely that both Ronald Sullivan and his wife apparently were fired because he agreed to defend Harvey Weinstein.

        Dani Mudannayake doesn’t really help her own cause in the essay she wrote about the controversy on Medium.com, “I will not be silenced”. The first paragraph or two are readable, but the (perhaps understandably) shrill tone of the rest of the essay throws doubt on just how much we can rely on her version of the events she describes. But I could be making the mistake of conflating style and substance.

        One of the comments (now missing) on the Crimson article you shared with us asked sarcastically what I find to be an intelligent question – “Why hasn’t (Harvard law professor) Alan Dershowitz commented on this?”

        Two very good reasons come to mind
        – the available testimonies are such a muddle of petty complaints that it’d be unwise to weigh in for anyone involved, and
        – Prof. Dershowitz helped represent Jeffrey Epstein, a much more politically “toxic” client than Harvey Weinstein. He may not be willing to attract the same attention that Dean Sullivan and his wife have from Harvard’s student activists.

        It’s interesting. Harvey Weinstein’s alleged victims are mostly prominent actresses from Hollywood. There are empowered women in almost every sense of the word. By contrast, the complainants against Jeffrey Epstein were high school kids from south Florida, found by a court to have been recruited by Epstein or those acting for him and who either sexually serviced Epstein or were “pimped out” to others (allegedly including Prof. Dershowitz at one point).

        Yet, who do Harvard’s student activists concentrate on? The attorney who defended the guy who preyed on actresses, not the attorney who defended the predator on high school girls and is alleged to have preyed in them himself.

        It seems that the Harvard activist community chooses to (unethically, to be sure) protest the legal defense of a man accused of preying on Hollywood starlets, and not the legal defense of a man found in Federal court of preying on underage girls still in high school.

        I’m glad Prof. Dershowitz hasn’t had to go through what Dean Sullivan and his wife have merely for choosing to defend unpopular clients. But the worst thing you can say about the Harvard student activists targeting Sullivan and Robinson is that they are now bravely defending the rich and powerful, stepping past those who were more despicably and profoundly exploited.

    1. Clearly, the firings were precipitated by student protests over the Dean’s representation of Harvey Weinstein and motivated by a desire to placate those students. The other (previously unknown and never discussed) allegations were merely a pretext for the firing. That much is clear.

      Harvard Law should have prominently defended its professor in his decision to represent an unpopular client, prior to the “climate investigation” and always. But not a word along those lines.

      We have a new generation of sheltered, fragile students who burst into tears, complain and protest when challenged – leading to a new university environment where debate is no longer possible and where even in law school core principles of the profession they profess to prepare their students for are sacrificed.

      It is sickening. Then again, as a retired expat attorney its not my problem.

      Good luck Harvard Law and your poor little unfortunate students who don’t and never will have a clue about what their intended profession means.

  2. I guess these students and Mr. Khurana missed the memo about presumption of innocence and the right to an attorney. But what can you expect when Mueller and Weismann used their report to turn the presumption of innocence upside down?

  3. Posters continue to confuse the issue here. This had nothing to do with the Harvard Law School. The position Sullivan was relieved of was not with the Law School nor was the person who relieved in the Law School. That does not make the situation right, but this was about a “house” or dormitory like organization – actually 2 buildings – where the role of the law professor had nothing to do with law, but probably some kind of mentoring/house mother role. He is still a law professor at Harvard

    1. why should he be relieved of anything? What’s his crime?
      And he’s black…… a liberal black. Doesn’t Herr Khurana have a copy of the liberal PC playbook?

      1. If you’re asking me, I don’t have an opinion or care enough to pursue the facts beyond where I have, which seems further than most here looking to get outraged again.. A house mother type role, which is apparently what we’re talking about here, not a law class, might require a certain level of simpatico which many – maybe most – in the Winthrop House didn’t share with Sullivan. That doesn’t make them right or him wrong, but this is not a controversy about the law school or the law.

        1. Anon…….So, your basic dorm student should have a say in the decision regarding which clients the dorm mother or dorm dad choose to represent legally? Huh?

              1. Sorry Cindy, I don’t necessarily agree – or disagree. Small potatoes and Harvard’s business, not ours.

                  1. Absolutely not. I am firmly in favor of passing a law making what has become SOP – all major candidates since Reagan have released their tax returns – a legal requirement to be on the ballot. Why wouldn’t you want to know that information, and especially with a tax cheating deadbeat who has owed huge amounts of money to who knows who?

                    1. That’s what the IRS does. You’re just nosey.
                      It’s not a constitutional requirement for the Presidency and shouldn’t be, so drop the drama already.

                    2. Cindy, the IRS is a not very efficient organization and is regularly underfunded by Congress.

                      If by “nosey” you mean I’d like to know if someone my owns our presidents, I guess I’m guilty. Knowledge is the antidote to drama, a state our current president like to keep us all in.

                    3. Cindy, the IRS is a not very efficient organization and is regularly underfunded by Congress.

                      You’re talking out of your ass.

                    4. Congress has cut the IRS appropriations by $1.2 billion since 2010

                      The IRS estimates that only about 1 percent of wages reported by employers to the government are underreported, but underreporting could be as high as 56 percent where there is no outside reporting of income to the IRS. That describes most of the income of the very rich,

                      Plutocrats, the richest 0.1 percent of Americans, get the most benefit from a weakened IRS. Because they have the money, the lawyers, the lobbyists, the accountants, and the secret campaign funds, they are able to ensure that the IRS won’t have the resources to effectively collect the money they owe to it. Plutocrats do this by devising tax shelters too complex for the IRS to challenge at an acceptable cost, and by having allies in Congress who intimidate the IRS from issuing tough regulations and who cut IRS funding to prevent adequate enforcement.

                      https://prospect.org/article/how-plutocrats-cripple-irs

        2. I remember my university experience in which our dorm admin was a notorious homosexual pervert, by rumour and reputation, and so we just steered clear of him. mostly if you were not a twink, he wasn’t interested in what you were doing anyways

    2. whatever the particulars of Harvard’s administrative structures, the intent is clear

      TO PUNISH A LAWYER FOR REPRESENTING A CLIENT

      this is a despicable tactic that pressure organizations have used for years

      it flies against our basic notions of due process and lawyers as a group left or right must oppose it fiercely

      i loathe weinstein but he has a right to counsel!

  4. What a disgrace for a Law School to kowtow to militant upstarts. Reason and meritocratic dialog, free of ad hominem attack, is the tradition of
    our best legal circles. The left is bringing on a culture of personal attack, guilt by association, and alienation. How foolish that the leadership at Harvard
    School of Law cannot defend process constraints for approaching contemporary controversies. There’s no “dignity” is this firing, as it flirts with mob rule.

  5. News flash! Educational administration is an occupation shot through with careerist poseurs and poltroons. They lack character, and there’s nothing you can do with most of them but put them out on the curb.

    The protesting law students are unfit to practice law and should be put out on the curb as well.

  6. Harvard’s control can be found in its ongoing sources of endowment.
    if the donors wanted it to change it would
    here you have a stunning revelation:
    the billionaires of today’s world are mostly a bunch of leftists.
    they are so powerful that they have no fear of the petty tax schemes that could be passed– they only are out there pushing the social-girevance, non-economic parts of the “progressive agenda” to keep the white and other native born american middle and lower classes whipped, tired, and demoralized, so that they don’t rise up and clip the eagle’s wings

    1. Harvard like over 2200 universities and colleges are tools of the Department of Education. I only now of two* that refuse to accept government funding. That’s your tax dollars being misused.

      *Grove City College in Western PA
      *Hillsdale College in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

  7. FIRE RAKESH KHURANA

    not his first cockup. fire this incompetent, save Harvard law! from wiki:

    Dean of Harvard College
    In July 2014 he became Dean of Harvard College.[3] In May, 2016, Harvard announced severe restrictions on undergraduates who belong to fraternities or gender-exclusive organizations not formally affiliated with the College, some of which are known as “final clubs.” Some of these have existed as such for more than 200 years, but Harvard began to admit women undergraduates only in 1977. Dean Khurana had worked with Harvard’s President, Drew Gilpin Faust, to develop the new policy. Khurana, according to the “Washington Post,” said that the exclusion of women practiced by the clubs has no place in the 21st century. The restrictions on students belonging to these clubs include ineligibility for leadership positions in student organizations affiliated with Harvard, such as sports teams, and ineligibility for required Harvard endorsement for fellowships such as Rhodes and Marshall fellowships.[6]

    By mid-August 2018, Dean Khurana’s black-listing of “unrecognized social organizations,” rather than ameliorating the exclusion of women, had in fact eliminated four out of four sororities and three of five traditionally female clubs available to Harvard women.[7]

    1. entitled feminists outnumber blacks. that’s the PC version of democracy.
      castrated white men always do what the feminists tell them to do.

        1. Every person has to look inside and decide what to do every new day and not just be a nutless coward slave forever

      1. correction if they are castrated they are not ‘men.’ That aside I saw nothing about citizenship and it sounded like rewrite from another country. Either that or an imitation of what Evergreen used to be and Sarah Lawrence ‘is.’

  8. The professor was not relieved of any duties concerning the law school. He and his wife were relieved as “faculty deans” of an undergraduate dormitory. While I fully oppose the idea of lawyers being judged based on their clients, and think it absurd that the Sullivans would be judged that way, the positions Sullivan and his wife occupied were similar to being house mothers and fathers and implied some level of informal comfort between them and the students. In that sense, being “correct” is not the issue.

    As to the judging of lawyers by their clients, the worst violators of this rule that I have meant have been lawyers themselves who often seem to appropriate whatever side of the law they regularly represent – plaintiffs, prosecutors, defense, etc – as a higher moral platform than the supposed low-lifes or bullies they oppose. I was surprised to learn this in as much as most citizens view them all as a group as no-morals hired guns that will take any side for a price.

    1. s to the judging of lawyers by their clients, the worst violators of this rule that I have meant have been lawyers themselves who often seem to appropriate whatever side of the law they regularly represent – plaintiffs, prosecutors, defense, etc – as a higher moral platform than the supposed low-lifes or bullies they oppose.

      HEY– THAT IS A GOOD POINT!

  9. The firing of the dean was insane and wrong. One would have hoped that a law school would know the difference between the lawyer and his client and refuse to budge when these objections were raised. Perhaps someone should have called the objectors in and explained about how the law works and what lawyers do. A teachable moment instead was used to teach a very different message,

  10. BTW uber-liberal Rakesh Khurana is the same dolt who black-listed fraternities at Harvard to empower women. All he accomplished was driving off the only four sororities on campus. The foreign-born, American raised academic meets all three criteria for advancement at the Ivies: Liberal, uber-liberal and antagonistic to anything traditionally American. Rarely do you see third-world repressive attitudes so prominently on display. Let’s see if the hoary law faculty lives up to its billing and brings down Khurana.

  11. The left has become rabid. Every news piece suggests that Orwell’s prophesy has come true. If the Democrats/Left could impoverish, ruin and expel everyone who goes against the Democrat/Left orthodoxy they would. They are the intolerant! The Democrats and the left in the US are no better than Chavez, Castro. Mao, Stalin, Tito and otehrs.Thanks to our Founding Fathers they can’t do as they want and hopefully the US citizens can overcome the lies and falsehoods of the Dems and the Press that supports their fascist behavior.

    1. oh, they are petty bullies compared to the warlords castro mao stalin and tito
      those guys had deep cunning and vision and will, however evil.,

      rather, most of the Dem leaders are mostly just a bunch of wimpy greedy schmucks

      don’t elevate them above their worth

      the Republicans if they take any lesson from Trump should take this:
      oppose these scurvy dogs with fierce words and resolute action
      then the opposition will fall into ineffective disarray

  12. Harvard, like most other crazy, liberal colleges, has gone off the deep end thinking that students know better than those with years of knowledge and experience. And really, if those nut case students decide to withdraw because they didn’t get their way the university would be better off without them.

    1. its been off the rails of PC for many many decades but still worth saving
      fight PC it will not be dislodged by ignoring it

  13. The monster has turned on its creator. Regardless of outcome we’ll have one less enemy of freedom. I’ll get the popcorn.

  14. Harvard! Always put an exclamation point after it. They want that badly. The most highly over rated law school in the country. Fly over and flush. Make sure you poop before you flush.
    Hey you Harvard dorks! You stink!

    1. it’s an august American institution if we have any. and we need to save it. start by firing Khurana. for starters, and then let that be a lesson.

  15. Interesting. I attended the University of Illinois College of Law nearly 30 years ago. Professor Francis Boyle taught Jurisprudence, a summer course in which I enrolled and thoroughly enjoyed. Professor Boyle serves as counsel to Bosnia and Herzegovina and to the Provisional Government of the Palestinian Authority, and has written and spoken regarding many highly controversial and politically sensitive matters, and the University respects his professional work.

    One would think that Harvard would recognize and respect Mr. Sullivan’s service to the rule of law.

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