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Student, Winthrop Tutor File Police Reports Following Dining Hall Incident

Winthrop House's dining hall.
Winthrop House's dining hall. By Megan M. Ross
By Shera S. Avi-Yonah and Aidan F. Ryan, Crimson Staff Writers

A Harvard College student and a Winthrop House tutor filed conflicting police reports referencing each other with the Harvard University Police Department after an incident in the House’s dining hall Wednesday evening.

Danu A. K. Mudannayake ’20 — an Eliot House resident — and Winthrop senior tutor Carl L. Miller gave differing accounts of a confrontation between the two of them in the dining hall Wednesday. Mudannayake, who is also a Crimson design editor, said she approached Miller after he allegedly took photos and videos of her while she ate dinner with a friend. Miller and his wife Valencia Miller both wrote in emails that Mudannayake allegedly harassed and provoked him as their family ate.

Miller wrote in an email that he filed a report with HUPD after an “obvious provocation” from Mudannayake, per House protocol.

“The police report was filed as a result of Danu Muddanyake's obvious provocation, harassment and due to her threat against my three month old child,” Miller wrote. “I will allow the formal police investigation to unfold and I am confident that the truth will be revealed and Ms. Muddanyake's intent and true motives and involvement will come to light.”

Mudannayake said she was eating in the dining hall Wednesday evening with a friend because her house’s dining hall was closed for a student-faculty dinner. As she ate, she saw Miller appear to point his phone in her direction across the room. She said Miller did not acknowledge her when she approached him and tried to get his attention to ask him why he seemed to take photos or videos of her.

Valencia Miller wrote in an emailed statement that she and her husband were taking photos of their child that night while they were eating with students. She wrote that Mudannayake “accosted” her husband.

Carl Miller did not respond to Mudannayake. Winthrop Faculty Dean Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. then entered the dining hall and spoke with Carl Miller, according to Mudannayake. She said Sullivan asked her for the details of her encounter with Carl Miller and told her to follow up with him via email.

Sullivan did not respond to a request for comment.

Following the incident, Mudannayake said she filed a report with HUPD later Wednesday evening. Both Mudannayake and Miller said they were later informed the other had filed a report about the event.

The pair of reports come during a semester in which Winthrop House has been a center of controversy. On Jan. 23, Sullivan announced he would represent Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein as he stands accused of rape.

In the months since, Mudannayake and other students have protested in Harvard Yard, signed open letters, and distributed flyers, arguing that Sullivan’s representation of Weinstein is incompatible with his role as a faculty dean.

Valencia Miller wrote in an emailed statement that she felt unsafe in Winthrop House because of Mudannayake’s actions.

“I experienced the latest episode in an escalating pattern of harassment against my home and my husband that pierced my heart because it involved my child,” she wrote.

Valencia Miller added that she has worked since January to foster a positive environment for Winthrop students amid campus discussions of Sullivan’s decision to represent Weinstein.

“For the last few months, a small group of students have continued to escalate a controversy around our Faculty Dean’s representation of Harvey Weinstein,” Miller wrote. “I have worked to encourage students to discuss different points of view with civility, grace and understanding.”

Winthrop Resident Dean Linda D.M. Chavers wrote in an emailed statement that she directs House staff to contact “appropriate authorities” when safety concerns arise.

“Last week's incident was incredibly upsetting and should never have happened. Everyone in the Houses deserves to feel safe and be treated with respect,” Chavers wrote. “I have always directed all tutors to call HUPD when there's a safety concern as is the policy amongst all resident deans and tutors across all Houses.”

Amber A. James ’11 — a Winthrop House tutor and Harvard Law School student — wrote in a statement that the “escalation of harassment is unacceptable, inappropriate and intolerable.” She distributed the statement to other house tutor staff Sunday, but did not indicate which tutors signed onto the statement.

“As tutors, we wholeheartedly condemn this attack,” James wrote. “As concerned members of the Winthrop community, we call on the administration to respond to these repeated attacks on our House.”

In February, Mudannayake and other students distributed flyers depicting an illustration of Sullivan. That same day in a separate incident, an unknown vandal spray painted slogans calling for Sullivan to step down from his post as faculty dean on the exterior of Winthrop. Hours later, Sullivan and co-Faculty Dean Stephanie R. Robinson emailed residents condemning the graffiti.

A week later, Sullivan and Robinson emailed Winthrop residents stating some students raised concerns about the flyers, which the students called “racially offensive.” Mudannayake has previously said she believed their response was an attempt to “diverge the spotlight off of the survivors in Winthrop House.”

HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano declined to comment via email on Thursday, citing department policy that bars him from identifying parties, witnesses, victims, or suspects. An HUPD officer went to the Winthrop House dining hall Wednesday evening to respond to “suspicious activity,” according to the HUPD police log.

—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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