May 5, 2019
Holding red and black posters reading “Reclaim Winthrop” and “#MeToo,” three student groups staged a sit-in in the Winthrop House dining hall Friday amid controversy surrounding Faculty Dean Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr.’s decision to represent Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
Our Harvard Can Do Better — an anti-sexual assault advocacy organization — read a list of demands at the event, including calling on the College to publicize the results of a climate review of Winthrop House and to create a system to hold faculty deans accountable. They also demanded that Sullivan apologize to house affiliates and delegate his ceremonial duties during Commencement to “an alternate,” and called for an “end to intimidation tactics.”
In an interview Sunday, Our Harvard Can Do Better member Amelia Y. Goldberg ’19 said the groups have demanded that the administration complete the review and announce what action it would take by May 29.
Sullivan did not respond to a request for comment. College spokesperson Rachael Dane declined to comment on the students’ demands.
The Association of Black Harvard Women and Student Labor Action Movement also sponsored the event. Our Harvard Can Do Better member Remedy H. Ryan ’21 wrote in a text that 178 undergraduates put their names on a sign-in sheet the organization distributed. Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana also attended part of the event.
Since Sullivan announced his decision to represent Weinstein in late January, students have spoken out at protests and written posts calling for him to step down as faculty dean — arguing that his representation of Weinstein is inconsistent with his role as the dean of an undergraduate house.
The College announced in February that former Dean of Freshman Thomas A. Dingman ’67 would conduct a climate review of Winthrop as a result of student concerns over Sullivan’s decision. As part of the review, administrators circulated a survey among Winthrop undergraduates, asking students to rate the house on a variety of metrics like homophobia, elitism, and friendliness.
The controversy in Winthrop House escalated in April when Danu A.K. Mudannayake ’20 — a Crimson design editor and activist who has led calls for Sullivan to step down as faculty dean — and Winthrop tutor Carl L. Miller filed conflicting police reports against each other after a confrontation in the house dining hall.
Following the incident, Miller and his wife, Winthrop tutor Valencia Miller, suedEliot Faculty Dean Gail A. O’Keefe for defamation in part because O’Keefe sent an email to Eliot residents defending Mudannayake and calling the Millers’ conduct “unprofessional.”
The Millers’ lawyer, George J. Leontire, said he believes the student protesters have acted inappropriately towards his clients.
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