Washington, May 12 (IANS) The Harvard University has announced that a law professor who is representing disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein will not continue as faculty dean of an undergraduate house after his term ends on June 30, bowing to months of pressure from students.
The professor, Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., and his wife, Stephanie Robinson, who is a lecturer at the law school, have been the faculty deans of Winthrop House, one of Harvard’s residential houses for undergraduate students, since 2009, The New York Times reported.
They were the first African-American faculty deans in Harvard’s history.
On Saturday, the dean of Harvard College, Rakesh Khurana, sent an email to students and staff members at Winthrop House, informing them that he would not renew the appointments of Sullivan and Robinson as faculty deans after their terms end on June 30.
Khurana said in his email that the decision was taken due to “a number of considerations”.
“Over the last few weeks, students and staff have continued to communicate concerns about the climate in Winthrop House to the college,” he wrote.
“The concerns expressed have been serious and numerous. The actions that have been taken to improve the climate have been ineffective, and the noticeable lack of faculty dean presence during critical moments has further deteriorated the climate in the house. I have concluded that the situation in the house is untenable.”
In response, the couple said in a statement: “We are surprised and dismayed by the action Harvard announced. We believed the discussions we were having with high-level university representatives were progressing in a positive manner but Harvard unilaterally ended those talks.”
When Sullivan joined Weinstein’s defence team in January, many students expressed dismay, saying that his decision to represent a person accused of abusing women disqualified the professor from serving in a role of support and mentorship to students.
Weinstein is scheduled to go to trial in June in Manhattan on rape and related charges.
As the protests continued, with graffiti aimed at Sullivan appearing on a university building, Harvard administrators said they would conduct what they called a climate review of Winthrop House.
In recent weeks, tensions have escalated, with a student sit-in and a lawsuit sparked by a clash between one of the protest leaders and two Winthrop House staff members who were seen as supporting Sullivan.
The decision not to renew the appointments of Sullivan and Robinson as faculty deans does not affect their positions at the law school where the former is the Jesse Climenko Clinical Professor of Law and the director of the Criminal Justice Institute.