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Harvard Graduate Council Calls for University Investigation Into Kavanaugh

Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh speaking at Harvard Law School's bicentennial celebration in Oct. 2017.
Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh speaking at Harvard Law School's bicentennial celebration in Oct. 2017. By Courtesy of Martha Stewart
By Shera S. Avi-Yonah, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard Graduate Council published an open letter Wednesday asserting it supports the federal investigation into Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh and urging the University to undertake its own probe into sexual misconduct allegations brought against the embattled Supreme Court nominee and former Harvard Law lecturer.

Harvard Law School administrators have repeatedly refused to say whether the school is investigating or plans to investigate Kavanaugh. The FBI on Wednesday concluded a roughly week-long probe into allegations of sexual misconduct brought against the nominee by at least three women, according to the Washington Post. The Council, which comprises representatives from each of Harvard’s 12 graduate schools, voted to release the statement — posted on Facebook — at a meeting Tuesday evening.

"The Harvard Graduate Council (HCG) is deeply moved by the accounts of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick," the letter reads. "The Harvard Graduate Council demands that the Congress of the United States withold its vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court until a thorough and independent investigation has been completed into the allegations of sexual assault levied against him."

The Senate will review the contents of the FBI report in coming days and Republicans hope to hold a final vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation by the end of the week, according to the Post.

The Council's letter comes days after The Crimson reported Kavanaugh would not return to teach a January course at Harvard Law School following weeks of student outcry over his continued employment at the school. Both he and University President Lawrence S. Bacow have indicated he made the decision to leave on his own.

President Donald Trump nominated the conservative judge to the Supreme Court in July. His ascension to the nation's highest court seemed all but certain until the first woman spoke up in mid-September.

Ford granted the Washington Post a tell-all interview roughly two weeks ago, telling the newspaper that Kavanaugh had tried to rape her at a house party the two attended in suburban Maryland in the 1980s. Days later, Ramirez told the New Yorker Kavanaugh had pushed his penis in her face at a party both attended while they were undergraduates at Yale. And last Wednesday, Swetnick said in a sworn affidavit that Kavanaugh was present while a group of teenage boys drugged and raped her at a D.C.-area party in 1982.

At Harvard, where Kavanaugh has taught since 2008, the allegations prompted students at the Law School to protest Kavanaugh’s confirmation and to demand Harvard launch its own probe into the allegations against the nominee. HGC members wrote in Wednesday's letter that they agree with those who have demanded Harvard investigate Kavanaugh, arguing that every allegation against a faculty member should lead in an internal investigation.

“HGC celebrates the activism of students who have demanded that the Harvard administration initiate a separate investigation into Judge Brett Kavanaugh in lieu of his scheduled January lecture at the Harvard Law School,” the letter reads. “No professor who is accused of a serious crime like sexual assault should be allowed to continue teaching without an investigation into the allegations.”

"The administration must consistently uphold this standard of scrutiny and accountablity in all instances of sexual assault across the university," the letter continues.

The council’s letter is meant to represent the views of Harvard’s graduate student community at large. Harvard Graduate Council president Max Vani wrote in an email that “the Council decided that high-profile matters surrounding sexual assault are of university-wide importance and should be addressed collectively by all of Harvard's constituent schools.”

The effort forms part of a larger push by the group to speak out about national and local issues affecting graduate students. At the same meeting, the council discussed the possibility of forming an External Affairs subcommittee specifically charged with releasing these kinds of statements.

—Staff writer Shera S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @saviyonah

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