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Harvard Won't Renew Faculty Deans' Terms Amid Outcry Over Harvey Weinstein Defense

Harvard University law professor Ronald Sullivan Jr., who had until Monday served as a defense attorney for accused rapist Harvey Weinstein, will not continue as faculty dean for a campus house once his term ends on June 30, the school said.

The decision comes after months of both students and staff voicing their concerns about "the climate in Winthrop House," according to a Saturday statement from Rakesh Khurana, dean of Harvard College.

"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," Khurana wrote. "I have concluded that the situation in the House is untenable."

Both Sullivan and his wife, Stephanie Robinson, a lecturer at the law school, will not be renewed as faculty deans. The two have served since 2009 and were the first African-American faculty deans in the university's history.

A Friday story from the Harvard Crimson quoted people affiliated with Winthrop House who said the deans had created a toxic environment there.

In a Saturday statement from Sullivan and Robinson, the two said they are "surprised and dismayed" by the announcement. "We believed the discussions we were having with high level University representatives were progressing in a positive manner, but Harvard unilaterally ended those talks."

On Monday, after the university's announcement, Sullivan said a judge has approved his request to withdraw from representing Weinstein in the Hollywood mogul's criminal trial.

"The rescheduling of the trial to begin September 9, 2019, created an unresolvable conflict between continuing the representation and my teaching obligations at the Harvard Law School," Sullivan said in a statement. He added that he will "remain available to Mr. Weinstein’s trial team for advice and consultation."

Between now and June 30, Dean Khurana said Harvard College will work with Sullivan and Robinson to help with scheduled events.

With reporting by the WBUR Newsroom

Dianna Bell Twitter Contributor
Dianna Bell is a freelance digital producer for WBUR's newsroom and The ARTery.

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