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Winthrop Tutors Plan to File Title IX Complaint Regarding Confrontation with Student

Winthrop 2019
Winthrop House.

A lawyer representing Winthrop House tutors Carl L. Miller and Valencia Miller wrote in a Tuesday letter to Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana that the Millers plan to file a Title IX complaint about their confrontation with College student Danu A.K. Mudannayake ’20 in the Winthrop dining hall last Wednesday.

The Millers’ lawyer, George J. Leontire, alleges in the letter that Mudannayake “harassed” them during the Wednesday incident; Mudannayake has stated that Carl Miller harassed her. Leontire also copied University President Lawrence S. Bacow, University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76, and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay on the letter.

Mudannayake, Eliot Faculty Dean Gail A. O’Keefe, and several student groups also distributed emails, letters, and blog posts in response to the incident, which concluded with both Mudannayake and Carl Miller filing conflicting reports referencing each other with Harvard police.

Mudannayake said she approached Miller last Wednesday evening after she believed he may have taken photos and videos of her while she ate dinner with a friend. The Millers offered a different account — both wrote in emails that Mudannayake harassed and provoked them and their family while they ate. Valencia Miller wrote that they were taking photos of their child who was with them.

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Leontire wrote in the letter that the Millers plan to file the Title IX complaint with the University in response to their interactions with Mudannayake. Title IX is a federal law that guides the University's approach to handling incidents of gender and sex-based misconduct and discrimination.

Mudannayake, an Eliot House resident and Crimson design editor, said in an interview Tuesday that she has not been informed of any Title IX complaint filed by the Millers.

Harvard spokespeople could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Mudannayake also circulated a Medium post titled “i will not be silenced” over the Eliot email list Tuesday. In the post, she repeated her allegations that Carl Miller photographed her multiple times from across the Winthrop dining hall as she ate dinner with a friend last Wednesday.

Mudannayake has made international headlines for her activism regarding Winthrop Faculty Dean Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr.’s decision to represent Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein as he stands accused of rape. In Facebook posts and at protests, she has previously called for Sullivan to step down from his post as faculty dean.

The Wednesday night incident last week was not the first time Carl Miller and Mudannayake allegedly interacted. On Feb. 25, Mudannayake and a group of other students distributed flyers calling for Sullivan’s removal in Winthrop. She wrote in her Medium post that Carl Miller followed her around the House that morning as she passed out the flyers.

“The night that myself and 4 other students distributed fliers in Winthrop House, Dean Sullivan’s Senior Tutor, Carl Miller, proceeded to follow me around the entirety of Winthrop despite the fact that I was well within my rights of free speech to distribute my fliers,” she wrote.

Mudannayake also wrote that Sullivan has used “methods of intimidation” against her and disputed his comments that she and College administrators have acted in a racially-biased manner against him in response to his choice to represent Weinstein. The College launched a “climate review” of Winthrop after student backlash to Sullivan’s decision.

“I, a 21 year-old college undergraduate being targeted by tutors who are much older than me and a Dean who is one of the foremost defense lawyers in the country,” she wrote. “As a brown international woman at Harvard I believe that the narrative put forth by Dean Sullivan and the Millers, accusing any and all critics of being racially motivated, is a detriment to those who are truly suffering from racially motivated attacks.”

Dean O’Keefe sent an email to Eliot affiliates Tuesday criticizing the Millers’ decision to file a police report against Mudannayake.

“The two Winthrop tutors acted totally unprofessionally and dishonestly,” O’Keefe wrote. “Here at Eliot we would never condone nor allow tutors to make a public attack on an undergraduate, let alone in such a blatant and clumsy political way.”

Leontire criticized O’Keefe’s statement in his letter, calling her comments “inappropriate.”

Three campus groups — anti-sexual assault advocacy organization Our Harvard Can Do Better, the Association of Black Harvard Women, and the Harvard Student Labor Action Movement — also distributed a letter over several House-wide email lists Tuesday criticizing the Millers’ version of events.

“This response is a blatant attempt to intimidate student activists broadly and especially Mudannayake herself,” their statement reads. “We support Mudannayake’s right to free speech and commend her moral courage in speaking out against rape culture on campus in the face of intimidation, harassment, and threats.”

The groups also reaffirmed their previous calls for Sullivan to step down, arguing that the dual police reports are a “distraction” from his decision to represent Weinstein.

“Students deserve better from the leaders of their house communities,” they wrote.

Sullivan did not respond to a request for comment on Mudannayake’s statement, O’Keefe’s email, and the student groups’ letter.

Correction: April 10, 2019

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Danu Mudannayake, Gail O'Keefe, and several student groups distributed emails, letters, and blog posts in response to the incident on the same day. In fact, O'Keefe sent her email a day earlier.

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

—Staff writer Aidan F. Ryan can be reached at aidan.ryan@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @AidanRyanNH.

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