Opinion: Why Harvard Was Wrong To Make Me Step Down

Written by Ann Brown
Langdell Hall, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. is a professor at Harvard Law School. He is also faculty director of the Criminal Justice Institute. But he’s not too happy about a decision Harvard recently made and took to the New York Times to voice is disapproval in an op-ed piece.

You see Sullivan is also one of the lawyers hired by film producer Harvey Weinstein for his sexual assault trial. Harvard seems to have felt it should distance itself from Sullivan. But according to Sullivan, Harvard was wrong in making him step down.

“In May, Harvard College announced that it would not renew the appointment of me and my wife, Stephanie Robinson, as faculty deans of Winthrop House, one of Harvard’s undergraduate residential houses, because I am one of the lawyers who represented the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in advance of his coming sexual assault trial. The administration’s decision followed reports by some students that they felt ‘unsafe’ in an institution led by a lawyer who would take on Weinstein as a client,” Sulivan wrote.

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Sullivan wrote that Harvard should consider all his body of work, not just Weinstein. “During the 10 years I served as faculty dean, I represented survivors of sexual assault as well as people accused of sexual assault. As recently as the fall semester, I served as a special prosecutor in a case against Eric Greitens, a former governor of Missouri, involving sexual assault,” he wrote.

Sullivan said that Harvard didn’t take time to talk to him or his students. And, he feels that Harvard missed a prime opportunity to have a discussion on campus about “sexual violence and the tension between protecting the rights of the criminally accused and treating survivors of sexual violence with respect.”

Sullivan added: “Harvard has been silent in other disappointing ways. Not long ago, I was taking my 9-year-old son to school when we saw that ‘Down with Sullivan’ had been spray-painted on the wall abutting our home. I had to explain to my son that representing unpopular clients serves an important constitutional role in our democracy and that I had done nothing wrong. As you might imagine, it was hard to see my son read that piece of graffiti.”