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Harvard Launches ‘Climate Review’ of Winthrop Over Concerns About Sullivan’s Representation of Weinstein

Sullivan Updated
Winthrop House Faculty Dean and Law School Professor Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. speaks at a diploma ceremony in 2010.

Former Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67 will lead a climate review to address concerns from Winthrop House residents over Faculty Dean Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr.’s decision to represent film producer Harvey Weinstein, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana wrote to house affiliates in an email Monday morning.

The review comes as a product of College and Faculty of Arts and Science procedures to gather information amid "climate concerns," according to Khurana's email. He added that students previously shared concerns about support for students within Winthrop and the house environment.

“When climate concerns arise in a faculty-led unit, the College and the FAS have procedures in place to gather additional information to assess the situation and to provide confidentiality to those participating in the information gathering process,” he wrote. “In this situation, we would like to have a more complete understanding of the current environment at Winthrop House.”

The New York Post first reported Sullivan planned to join Weinstein’s legal team Jan. 23 as he faces five charges of sexual assault in a Manhattan court.

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Sullivan’s decision to represent Weinstein sparked student demonstrations, op-eds, and letters calling for Sullivan’s removal from his position as faculty dean. Tutors in more than half of Harvard’s residential houses — including Winthrop — have held listening sessions for concerned students, many staffed by a representative from the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response.

Following student scrutiny of his decision, Sullivan sent two missives to House affiliates. In one, he wrote about defense lawyers’ duty to represent “unpopular defendants” and highlighted his career as a defense attorney. In the other, he laid out a set of “processes” he and fellow Winthrop Faculty Dean Stephanie R. Robinson planned to implement — including designating Winthrop Resident Dean Linda D. M. Chavers as the “point person” for issues related to sexual assault in the house.

The review has two parts: discussions between Winthrop affiliates and College officials, and an online climate survey run by the Office of Institutional Research — Harvard’s internal research arm. Both are voluntary and intended to gather anonymous, aggregate information, which will then be shared with Khurana.

Khurana wrote that Dingman will contact Winthrop affiliates with further information about the survey. The College will use the information from the survey to take “actions, as appropriate.”

On Feb. 11, Khurana wrote in a statement emailed to The Crimson that he had met with Sullivan to discuss the “responsibilities” he holds as faculty dean. In a Feb. 15 interview, Khurana said he passed along feedback from College affiliates during those conversations.

“We've been actively engaged with Professor Sullivan and so I'm actively in communication with him, specifically sharing what I'm hearing from members of the community and what they're describing their needs so that Professor Sullivan can adjust to those needs,” Khurana said in the interview.

When asked to evaluate Sullivan’s decision to represent Weinstein in that interview, Khurana pointed to what he called faculty members’ “academic freedom.”

—Staff writer Shera S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at shera.avi-yonah@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @saviyonah.

—Staff writer Delano R. Franklin can be reached at delano.franklin@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @delanofranklin_.

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