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In Wake of Sullivan Controversy, Some Winthrop Residents Apply to Transfer Houses

Three students walk along the fence of Winthrop House as they enjoy the warm spring weather.
Three students walk along the fence of Winthrop House as they enjoy the warm spring weather. By Quinn G. Perini
By Shera S. Avi-Yonah and Aidan F. Ryan, Crimson Staff Writers

Two Winthrop undergraduates wrote and circulated a Medium post about their decision to transfer houses following Faculty Dean Ronald S. Sullivan’s announcement he will represent Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein who faces multiple allegations of sexual assault.

Caroline R. Kaufman ’21 and Allison J. Scharmann ’21, a Crimson arts editor, published the post on April 19. They criticized his handling of student concerns and wrote that Sullivan’s decision “felt like a slap in the face” because they both have experienced sexual assault.

Kaufman and Scharmann also said in an interview they are aware of at least three other Winthrop students for whom Sullivan was a factor in their decision to transfer out of the House.

After Sullivan announced his decision to represent Weinstein in late January, he sent out a pair of emails — the first defending his decision and the second outlining a series of “processes” meant to allay student concerns, including designating Resident Dean Linda D. M. Chavers as the “point person” for matters related to sexual harassment.

Kaufman and Scharmann wrote that Sullivan and fellow Winthrop Faculty Dean Stephanie R. Robinson’s decision to direct sexual harassment-related concerns to Chavers showed that Sullivan’s representation of Weinstein conflicts with his role as a faculty dean.

“By deferring all sexual assault reporting responsibilities to Winthrop Resident Dean Dr. Linda Chavers, Sullivan has acknowledged his compromised ability  —  in the eyes of the Winthrop Community  —  to listen to, acknowledge, and support them in such matters,” Kaufman and Scharmann wrote.

Sullivan did not respond to a request for comment.

Kaufman said in an interview Monday that she successfully applied to transfer in the first round of applications, which were due Feb. 11.

Scharmann applied in the second round — which is open until May 20 — and has not yet heard whether the Dean of Students Office approved her application. In addition to filling out the interhouse transfer form, Scharmann contacted College Title IX coordinator Emily J. Miller to inform Miller she wanted to transfer because she felt "uncomfortable" about Sullivan's decision to represent Weinstein and his subsequent "public comments" and "communications" about the matter. Scharmann said Miller wrote that she would flag Scharmann’s request for the DSO.

“To be honest, I'm not 100 percent sure they’re going to transfer me out of Winthrop,” Scharmann said. “I will consider moving off campus if I don’t get transferred, which would not be ideal. I think I can use financial aid for that purpose, but as a student on full financial aid, I am a little bit worried about my housing situation if I’m not transferred.”

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ Title IX policy states that Miller and other coordinators may offer students who report experience with sexual and gender-based harassment a series of interim measures, including changes to their housing arrangements.

“Consistent with FAS policy, interim measures might include, among others: restrictions on contact; course-schedule or work-schedule alteration; changes in housing; leaves of absence; or increased monitoring of certain areas of the campus,” the policy reads.

Remedy H. Ryan ’21, an organizer with anti-sexual assault advocacy group Our Harvard Can Do Better, said she has heard from both undergraduates and Harvard staff that the Title IX office would work with students to facilitate transfer requests. Ryan also said she heard that freshmen who have experience with sexual assault had the option of requesting not to be placed in Winthrop.

“I think there are probably like a lot of survivors who didn’t know that was an option, especially freshmen, who didn’t know it was an option to not be put in Winthrop or still don’t really know much about the situation, but will probably have a very different experience of it once they're inside the house,” Ryan said.

College spokesperson Rachael Dane declined to comment for this story.

Correction: April 24, 2019

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the reason Allison Scharmann gave to Emily Miller expressing her desire to transfer out of Winthrop House.

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

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

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