Opinion | Harvard Betrays a Law Professor — and Itself


The upshot is that Harvard College seems to have ratified the proposition that it’s inappropriate for a school dean to defend a individual reviled by a substantial variety of college students — a place that may disqualify a lengthy record of stalwart defenders of civil liberties and civil rights, together with Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall.

Student opposition to Mr. Sullivan has hinged on the concept of security — that they might not really feel protected confiding in Mr. Sullivan about issues having to do with sexual harassment or assault given his willingness to function a lawyer for Mr. Weinstein. Let’s assume the great religion of such declarations (although some are possible mere parroting). Even nonetheless, they shouldn’t be accepted just because they characterize honest beliefs or emotions.

Suppose atheist college students claimed that they didn’t really feel “safe” confiding in a school dean who was an outspoken Christian or if conservative college students claimed that they didn’t really feel “safe” confiding in a school dean who was a outstanding leftist. One would hope that college officers would say greater than that they “take seriously” the considerations raised and fears expressed. One would hope that they might say that Harvard University defends — broadly — the suitable of individuals to specific themselves aesthetically, ideologically, intellectually and professionally. One would hope that they might say that the acceptability of a school dean should relaxation upon the best way during which he meets his duties, not on his private beliefs or skilled associations. One would hope, briefly, that Harvard would search to teach its college students and not merely defer to obscure apprehensions or pander to the imperatives of misguided rage.

Now, after all, Harvard authorities are dredging up varied supposed delinquencies on Mr. Sullivan’s half. An exposé in The Harvard Crimson refers to allegations that he and his spouse have been highhanded of their dealings with the employees at Winthrop House. No one is ideal; maybe there’s something to those claims.

But these dissatisfactions, if related in any respect, weren’t what provoked the scholar protests that led to Mr. Sullivan’s ouster. The central pressure animating the drama has been pupil anger at anybody daring to breach the wall of ostracism surrounding Mr. Weinstein, even for the restricted function of extending him authorized illustration. They wish to make him, a individual nonetheless clothed with the presumption of innocence, extra of an untouchable earlier than trial than those that have been convicted of a crime. There was no publicized protest at Winthrop House when Mr. Sullivan efficiently represented a convicted assassin, Aaron Hernandez, the previous New England Patriots star, who was acquitted of a separate double homicide earlier than killing himself in jail.

Harvard officers are actually able to withstanding pupil strain. This time, although, they don’t wish to. Some high-ranking directors have clearly been guided by an affinity for the idea that Mr. Sullivan’s illustration of Mr. Weinstein constituted a betrayal of enlightened judgment. Others have merely been prepared to be mau-maued.

In March, when it appeared that the administration was on the point of do what it’s now performed, 52 members of the Harvard Law School school, myself included, signed a letter supporting Mr. Sullivan’s “dedication to the professional tradition of providing representation to people accused to crimes and other misconduct, including those who are most reviled.” We known as upon Harvard “to recognize that such legal advocacy in service of constitutional principles is not only fully consistent with Sullivan’s roles of law professor and dean of an undergraduate house, but also one of the many possible models that resident deans can provide in teaching, mentoring and advising students.”

The rejection of that recommendation has now led to an alarming deadlock. Friends of academia ought to insist that Harvard reply the query: Why is serving as protection counsel for Harvey Weinstein inconsistent with serving as a school dean?

Randall Kennedy is a regulation professor at Harvard.

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