Khurana, O’Dair Tight-Lipped on Winthrop Review, Miller Lawsuit

Dean Khurana on Winthrop
Rakesh Khurana remained largely silent on the Winthrop House climate review and a lawsuit brought by Winthrop tutors Carl L. Miller and Valencia Miller against Eliot House Faculty Dean Gail A. O'Keefe during an interview Tuesday.

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana declined to comment on the Winthrop House “climate review” and a lawsuit brought by a pair of Winthrop tutors against an Eliot House faculty dean in a Tuesday interview.

Khurana began the interview by saying he did not want to comment on either matter, citing their pending status. Khurana last spoke about the climate review in an interview last month, shortly after it began.

“I think I’m not going to talk about anything in which there’s sort of current or pending litigation,” Khurana said Tuesday. “And also, I’m not going to comment on the Winthrop situation because we’re still in the process of the climate survey.”

Khurana has previously commented and made statements about pending lawsuits related to the College, including the ongoing admissions case.


In a separate interview, Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair declined to comment on Winthrop tutors Carl L. Miller and Valencia Miller’s defamation lawsuit against Eliot Faculty Dean Gail A. O’Keefe. She also declined to comment on whether her office, which oversees residential life including the undergraduate houses, has been involved in the dispute. The College is not a party in the Millers' lawsuit.

The College launched a climate review of Winthrop in February in the wake of student outcry over Faculty Dean Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr.’s Jan. 23 announcement that he would represent Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who faces several accusations of sexual assault.

The three months since Sullivan’s announcement have seen both calls from undergraduates asking him to step down from his post as faculty dean and open letters supporting his decision to represent Weinstein.

Khurana tapped former Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67 to lead the climate review intended to gather data and information surrounding “climate concerns” in Winthrop House in February.

As administrators began the review, some undergraduates organized protests and circulated letters arguing that Sullivan’s decision to represent Weinstein and his response to student concerns are incompatible with his role as a faculty dean.

Danu A. K. Mudannayake ’20 — an Eliot resident and Crimson design editor — has led calls for Sullivan to step down. Weeks into her activism, she was involved in a confrontation with the Millers in Winthrop dining hall on April 3. Mudannayake alleges that Carl Miller took photos and video of her, while Miller alleges she harassed him and his family. The two filed conflicting reports with Harvard University Police Department about the incident.

Days later, O’Keefe defended Mudannayake and wrote that the Millers acted “unprofessionally” in an April 8 email to Eliot residents. The Millers later filed a defamation lawsuit against O’Keefe, alleging that the April 8 email and a text she sent to Winthrop Resident Dean Linda D. M. Chavers in March included “false and defamatory statements.”

On Tuesday, Khurana did not directly respond to a series of questions about the events in Winthrop and Eliot that took place over the past several weeks.

Asked about the confrontation between Mudannayake and the Millers, O’Keefe’s email, and the Millers’ defamation suit, Khurana said the College is “trying to get an overall picture of everything that's going on in the Winthrop situation.”

A pair of Winthrop students wrote a Medium post Friday stating they would be transferring out of the House due to their concerns about Sullivan and his recent leadership of Winthrop. Asked about the post, Khurana again pointed to the ongoing climate survey.

“We're trying to gather all the information that we can that can be used to address the issues that are identified, as well as strengthen the things where people think things are going well,” he said.

Khurana also declined to comment on the Millers’ decision to subpoena several Harvard affiliates and did not answer a question on whether and how Harvard intervenes in disputes between staff and students.

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

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