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In Email to Winthrop Residents, Sullivan Criticizes The Harvard Crimson's Coverage

Winthrop House Faculty Dean and Law School Professor Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. speaks at a diploma ceremony in 2010.
Winthrop House Faculty Dean and Law School Professor Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. speaks at a diploma ceremony in 2010. By Karen G. Heredia
By Alexandra A. Chaidez, Crimson Staff Writer

Winthrop House Faculty Dean Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. emailed residents Thursday criticizing The Harvard Crimson’s coverage of his announcement that he would represent Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who faces charges of sexual assault, and students' responses to his decision.

Sullivan, who is also a Harvard Law School professor, wrote that The Crimson failed to represent basic aspects of his professional and academic background and “overwhelmingly” published articles and opinion pieces that portrayed his situation “in a one-sided way.” He added that in sending the email, he was not attempting to persuade Winthrop residents to take a particular side. Included in Sullivan's email are several opinion pieces defending him and his actions that he said The Crimson declined to publish.

Sullivan wrote in the email that a fairly presented narrative was necessary at a school committed to “veritas” — a reference to Harvard’s Latin motto meaning “truth.”

“I firmly believe that student organizations of all types, and certainly the school’s newspaper, are critical components of university life,” Sullivan wrote. “But I worry that the Crimson might be limiting your ability to have deep and robust discussions about decidedly important matters.”

Crimson President Kristine E. Guillaume ’20 wrote in an emailed statement that the publication seeks to report with “accuracy, integrity, and objectivity.”

"The Crimson strives to fulfill our obligation to our readers by reporting with accuracy, integrity, and objectivity,” wrote Guillaume, who was not involved in the reporting or editing of this piece. “Our reporters and editors have done their due diligence in reporting and providing balanced coverage on this subject and all others."

The Crimson initially covered Sullivan’s decision to represent Weinstein after the New York Post first reported the news Jan. 23. Sullivan is defending Weinstein as he faces five criminal charges in a Manhattan sexual misconduct case stemming from allegations that he raped one woman and forcibly performed oral sex on another.

In the wake of his initial announcement that he was joining Weinstein’s legal team, Sullivan emailed Winthrop affiliates to defend his involvement with the case, citing in particular the importance of representing the “unpopular defendant.” Several days later, Sullivan sent another missive outlining processes for Winthrop students moving forward, including designating Resident Dean Linda D.M. Chavers as the House’s “point person” for sexual misconduct issues.

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana announced Feb. 25 that former Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67 would lead a “climate review” of Winthrop House amidst these tensions. Winthrop residents received a survey Tuesday as part of this review.

Since his announcement in late January, Sullivan has faced criticism from students in Winthrop and across Harvard’s campus — with calls coming from individuals and student groups for him to resign from his post as faculty dean.

Sullivan wrote in his Thursday email that The Crimson failed to publish articles and editorials that presented a variety of viewpoints. He attached links to blog posts and articles defending his decision to join Weinstein’s legal team penned by various Harvard faculty, including former Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 and Law School Professor Randall L. Kennedy.

The Crimson has published several opinion pieces from individuals both praising and criticizing Sullivan’s decision to take on the high profile case. The Crimson Editorial Board also condemned his decision for what they argued was his failure to consider its effects on his ability to perform his duties as faculty dean. Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at Editorial Board meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics, according to The Crimson's policies.

“A central injunction of journalism is that journalists present important stories from multiple vantage points,” Sullivan wrote in his email. “Over the past few weeks, the Crimson has not followed through on that basic tenet.”

Guillaume wrote in her statement that The Crimson's Editorial Board followed its customary procedures when deciding which pieces to publish.

"The Crimson editorial page has published, as is its standard practice, opinion pieces with multiple and different perspectives on this matter,” Guillaume wrote.

Sullivan closed his email with links to other publications' news and opinion coverage of his decision to represent Weinstein and wrote that he looks forward to conversations within Winthrop on the topic.

—Staff writer Alexandra A. Chaidez can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @a_achaidez.

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