Education, Law, recent

Watching Harvard, My Alma Mater, Surrender to the Mob  

On Saturday, Harvard University announced that it would not be permitting law professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. to stay on as faculty dean of Winthrop House, an undergraduate residence where he has served in that position since 2009 (along with his wife Stephanie R. Robinson, who also teaches at Harvard Law School). When I heard news of this, my mind rushed back to a guided tour I’d once taken of Boston’s Freedom Trail, a two-and-a-half mile path that features numerous historical landmarks, including the site of the 1770 Boston Massacre, Paul Revere’s home and Bunker Hill Monument. At the time, I’d just arrived from Canada as a student at Harvard Law School. And I was eager to bring myself up to speed on America’s revolutionary history.

The most memorable story I heard during that tour was of a young John Adams, a future U.S. president, successfully defending Thomas Preston, a Captain of a redcoat British regiment who’d been accused of ordering the aforementioned massacre after British soldiers were hit with rocks and snowballs. When the administration of Acting Governor Thomas Hutchinson put Preston and his men on trial, Adams agreed to serve as defence counsel, despite the fact he’d already staked out a reputation as a leading Patriot. Years later, he would declare that “the part I took in defence of [Captain] Preston and the soldiers, procured me anxiety and obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country. Judgment of death against those soldiers would have been as foul a stain upon this country as the executions of the Quakers or witches.”

The story of Adams fighting to ensure that even his enemy’s rights were protected has special resonance for lawyers and law students, because it portrays the noble side of a profession that often is shown in a less than heroic manner. More broadly, the story reflects America’s larger, evolving national project of creating a democratic society in which popular passions would be tempered by the rule of law. Central to that project are due process and the right of all accused persons to zealous legal representation. It is ironic that these foundational principles should be forgotten by a place such as Harvard, from which Adams himself graduated in 1755.

Sullivan was the first African American to serve as faculty dean of a Harvard undergraduate house. He’s also a former president of the Black Law Students Association at Harvard Law School, a winner of HLS’ award for Outstanding Teaching, and the director of the school’s Criminal Justice Institute. Like other famous criminal lawyers, he often takes on notorious clients, including that of ex-NFL football star player Aaron Hernandez, who was convicted of murder in 2015. Any educated person knows that bad people often need good lawyers.

And yet Sullivan found himself pilloried in recent months because of his decision to join the legal defense team of alleged Hollywood rapist Harvey Weinstein, with activists claiming that Sullivan’s role in the case undercut his responsibility to make students of Winthrop House feel “welcomed, supported, and encouraged to raise their voices against any form of discrimination.” It also was claimed that “victims of sexual assault and rape” at Harvard would find Sullivan’s presence “not only upsetting, but deeply trauma-inducing.” Only after Sullivan joined Weinstein’s legal defence team did critics start publicizing allegations of a supposedly “toxic atmosphere” at Winthrop.

Screen grab from Ronald Sullivan’s 2016 TED Talk

In response to the claim that Sullivan’s role on the Weinstein defense team was incompatible with his role as a university figure, the Harvard administration should have stood up for the longstanding liberal-democratic principle that even the most reviled members of society—from Redcoats to rapists—deserve a lawyer. Instead, the administration did what now seems to come naturally among university administrators everywhere: It capitulated to the mob. In a vaguely worded email sent to Winthrop house residents and affiliates on Saturday, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana declared that Sullivan was being relieved of duty because the “situation in the House is untenable.”

As a Harvard Law School alumnus, and a lawyer who believes that due process is an essential bulwark against tyranny, three key points stand out when I reflect on the Harvard administration’s cowardice. The first is that the decision exacerbates a growing danger to the integrity of the legal profession in general, and to the rights of criminal defendants in particular. It always has been assumed that lawyers who agree to represent unsavoury clients are in no way signalling any kind of endorsement of such clients’ alleged behaviour. As Professor Sullivan himself said in a recent interview: “Lawyers are not an extension of their clients…When I’m in my lawyer capacity, representing a client, even one publicly vilified, it doesn’t mean I’m supporting anything the client may have done.” It is perhaps understandable that some undergraduate students may not understand the professional compartmentalization that is central to a lawyer’s role in society. But Harvard itself has no excuse for encouraging a misconception that, if given wide currency in this age of “social justice,” threatens to put lawyers at professional and reputational risk if they serve controversial clients.

Especially vulnerable are those criminal defendants—innocent and guilty alike—who are not as wealthy as Harvey Weinstein, and who already struggle to find competent lawyers willing to take their cases. (In all Western countries, remember, a disproportionate share of such defendants are from disadvantaged and marginalized communities.) Moreover, the trials of some of the world’s greatest criminals and mass murderers would simply never take place if there were not a corps of skilled lawyers willing to give the devil his legal due. As international human-rights lawyer Gissou Nia put it, “I would never think that my legal defense of say, those alleged to have committed war crimes (which I’ve done), would then have me dismissed from a law school post.”

A second observation arising from L’Affaire Sullivan: Notwithstanding the many differences between the far populist right and the social-justice left, these two poles now seem to have embraced an identically politicized view of the justice system. The “happy, excited, relieved” Harvard student activists high-fiving the departure of Sullivan may think they’re striking a blow for a progressive cause. But they’re simply mirroring the rhetoric of Liz Cheney, who once questioned “the loyalties of [U.S.] Justice Department lawyers who advocated for detained terror suspects” while in private practice. Here in Canada, where I live and work, I hear similarly regressive attitudes from conservative politicians, who argue that a lawyer who represented child soldier (and former Guantanamo Bay prisoner) Omar Khadr shouldn’t be appointed to the bench. In substance, their argument is no different from that of the far-left protesters who accuse Marie Henein—the prominent Toronto-based defense lawyer who successfully represented former radio host Jian Ghomeshi at his sexual assault trial—of “silenc[ing] victims and perpetuat[ing] rape culture.”

Third, the story belies the increasingly-fashionable argument that campus tales of social justice run amok are overblown. Sullivan’s treatment falls in with the litany of episodes that includes Bret Weinstein’s de facto firing at Evergreen State College, the cancellation of an honorary degree for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the forced resignation of Erika Christakis at Yale, Concordia University’s disinvitation of Harvard Professor Harvey Mansfield, and Cambridge’s cancellation of Jordan Peterson’s visiting fellowship. Students who receive their education on campuses where mobs force the hand of professors and administrators can be expected to bring those same anti-liberal values into the wider world.

At my first year of Harvard Law School, I was told that all accused persons deserve a strong legal defense. And we were all taught to celebrate lawyers who had the courage to take on unpopular causes. I internalized those lofty exhortations, and have tried to conduct my own career accordingly. Harvard’s decision regarding Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., on the other hand, sends the message that these are all just obsolete slogans from another era—the kind you hear on walking tours of old Boston historical sites.


Kaveh Shahrooz is a Toronto-based lawyer and a graduate of Harvard Law School. Follow him on Twitter at @kshahrooz.

Featured image: Paul Revere’s engraving of the 1770 Boston Massacre.


  1. Roger Jones says

    Years ago F. Lee Bailey did a lecture at Harvard Business School. He said (to paraphrase) I defend people who need a defense attorney. Many of them think I am their friend. In truth most are despicable. That does not mean they don’t deserve the best defensive available.

    • WH says

      I am inclined to refine that a little, because “deserve” is a hard sell for good reason. I think it may be something more like the integrity of the system depends on it. Not that I have anything like his credibility on the topic, but it’s not unclear to me why many people would have a problem with an argument centered around the accused rather than the institution as a whole.

      In no small part because the best defense attorney does indeed believe his/her client is innocent, and is so often observed acting accordingly in high profile cases where there’s no doubt about guilt. Sadly, I can see why this presents a new problem when mixing professions. The necessity to compartmentalize in one job may be a real liability in another, even given the shared field of study. So it’s a hard principle to manage in this context, not that the decision was at all correct (clearly it fits the larger pattern of collegiate idiocy). But the problem isn’t with this element of the justice system per se, it’s with adverse bedfellows trying to have a threesome.

      • CDL says

        I am an attorney who specializes in criminal law. The best defense attorneys do not “believe” their clients. Rather, they recognize that it is not about believing, but is about what the Government can and cannot prove.

        High profile cases skew public perception; most cases never make it to trial. Often the best outcome is a favorable plea agreement.

        • JGO says

          “I am an attorney who specializes in criminal law. The best defense attorneys do not “believe” their clients. Rather, they recognize that it is not about believing, but is about what the Government can and cannot prove.”

          Precisely, you could not have said it better.

    • GRPalmer says

      Didn’t Hillary Clinton (aka I should be POTUS) defend an alleged rapist and get him off and said after the trial she believed he was guilty when she defended him?

      Is Harvard banning Hillary Clinton too?

    • GRPalmer says

      Common sense tells you:

      What ever you do, if you ever need a defence lawyer,
      never ever use a law graduated from Harvard.

      Plead guilty and save your money.

    • GRPalmer says

      Who in their right mind would use a recently graduated lawyer from Harvard?
      Plead guilty and save you money.

    • Margaret Mahon says

      I’m the parent of a senior, who has been happy to be in Lowell House at Harvard. His ‘faculty deans’ are Diana Eck, a professor in the Harvard Divinity School, and her partner. They are well loved and serve an afternoon tea for all the Lowell House residents every Tuesday afternoon. ‘Faculty deans’ are not leaders of faculty; they live in the ‘house’ and they are involved in the workings of the ‘house’ — dormitory rooms, mail service, janitorial services, dining hall, advising, and social and psychological support for students assigned to one of twelve ‘houses.’

      The house is a home for the students. It’s not a classroom for didactic instruction. It’s not part of the law school.

      The Sullivan question is not about the law.

      • Tersitus says

        Meanwhile, the Childrens’ Crusade marches on….

      • MRM Berlin says

        @Margaret Mahon: So if the Sullivan question not about the law, is it about the quality of Sullivan‘s tea?

      • Rational Number says

        Correct Mum, its about a witch hunt.

      • Justin Stone says

        With respect, Ms. Mahon, the idea that an attorney should be considered a threat in any way to students because of his/her clients is patently absurd and infantilizing. Our children do not need to be protected from ideas or people with whom they vehemently disagree, they need to be protected from actual predators. Extending such predatory status to a defense attorney, one of the key lynchpins of a free society, is wildly counter-productive as it levels all behavior into generically objectionable mush. Defending a rapist in court and being a rapist are so far apart in both fact and substance that it boggles the mind to see them conflated. I do hope you’ll reconsider your position on this issue.

        • Geary Johansen says

          Here, here!

          I think Jonathan Haidt really hit the nail on the head, when he singled out social media as one of the key problems afflicting young people.

          It’s as though the fear of the dislike button has socially conditioned an entire generation to only look at issues at the most basic and superficial level- a frightening proposition given that the baby masters of the universe trained at Harvard should have an average IQ of around 160.

          As someone whose only participation in social media, consists of checking that family members planes have landed safely when they go on holiday and wishing them a happy birthday when I am not going to see them, I have watched the world go gradually more and more insane as a direct result of twitter, facebook and the rest.

          The most important institutions in any society are the intellectual institutions which underpin their manifestation in the real world. One such institution is the presumption of innocence. It beggars belief that whilst the rest of the world seeks to emulate us, and make a home within our borders through the mechanism of legal migration, younger citizens within the West seem intent on undermining everything about the West that makes it special and unique.

      • Reader says

        Thank you. I went to Harvard ages ago when the deans were called “House Masters.” The person in that position sets the tone for the entire House, hires staff and interacts daily with the students.

        I’m amazed by the number of people who refuse to see the distinction between Sullivan acting in his role as a Harvard Law School professor and his separate job as the head of a residential college of 400 undergraduates over whom he exercises a great deal of control. Furthermore, he and his wife have a history of retaliating against people who disagree with them and there have been serious complaints about their running of the House for years. This likely was just the last straw.

        • scribblerg says

          Hey – wake up – it shouldn’t be a “straw”. If he was an issue in other ways, so be it but this should never have been mentioned by the students, and when it was, Harvard should have cracked down on these SJW thugs. But they didn’t.

          Given this, I can assume bad faith on behalf of Harvard’s leadership. Given that you seem to think this is a “straw” of any sort, I can dismiss your POV as biased and agenda driven as well. Logic is a bitch, ain’t it?

          • Fort Hill says

            scribblerg: I agree 100 %. If there was something wrong, Harvard should have handled it years ago.

      • I weep for your son, and all like him. Harvard has lost the thread of the argument, and of its mission.

    • S Anderson says

      And that is the foundation for Rule of Law. Judicial Activism rejects the Rule of Law: the fallout is everywhere. I reserve the word “Liberal” for Classical Liberalism, leaving the word “Progressive” a synonym for Collectivists.

  2. TheSnark says

    The basic premise of criminal law is that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. It seems that there are quite a few students at Harvard Law school who do not understand that, and do not want to understand it. They should be expelled, if only to uphold Harvard Law School’s reputation as a school of law.

    • Andrew Mcguiness says

      Better than expelling, a requirement to take a special class on the principle of innocent until proven guilty.

    • Bill says

      That standard no longer holds in the post-Kavanaugh era for anyone accused by #metoo. Even cases where falsely accused men win large civil judgments for damages arising from the false allocation, the media does not present the “teaching moment” to the naive SJW types and their professors that have infected the academy.

    • S Anderson says

      Their beliefs are embedded in the education they received. Critical Theory spawns movements designed to consume everything, including itself.

  3. Ray Andrews says

    Since even unpopular folks are entitled to a defense, let me defend Harvard: Sullivan is not being harmed in any substantive way is he? His deanship is not a right is it? Is this not the sort of thing where, however much we might deplore the substandard mentality of the twiterii who are forcing him out, surely the culture of the thing is that the dean should serve with the approval of the house, and Sullivan does not have that approval for whatever reason.

    If the KKK defrocks him of the wizardship and throws someone out of the klavern and because they find out he’s partly Jewish, can he really sue to force the KKK to take him back? Probably it would be silly to even try. In the same way, if the snowflakes in Winthrop House are so uneducated as to decline the deanship of a distinguished person, well, the more fool them, but that’s their ‘right’, isn’t it? I wonder what would be gained by forcing them to keep Sullivan against their Correct and tender wishes. If I were him I’d resign the moment the twiterii started making noise and devote my attentions and my energies to more worthy students elsewhere.

    • Rev. Wazoo! says


      Except that Harvard is tax-exempt (and donations to it tax-deductible) due to its status as an educational insitution and this makes it legally and substantially different from the KKK. The government’s of the US, the state and city forgo taxes even in the proceeds from their multi-billion dollar ‘endowment’ (investment fund) because of their mission to educate.

      There’s no need to have resident faculty in a dormitory; the purpose is educational and Harvard has abrogated its responsibility to teach those students who fail to understand due process and the right of the accused to legal counsel. If some students find their resident dean’s presence intolerable, they’ve no need to tolerate it; they can simply leave the university.

      Facing that choice, I suspect most would choose the learn the lesson of tolerance on offer.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Rev. Wazoo!

        The defense capitulates 😉

        A parting shot tho: I agree with everything you say, it’s just that the deanship strikes me as a sort of ‘agreed’ arrangement which is difficult if not pointless to try to force. A girl marries the guy she likes, and if we consider her choice to be poor, nevertheless we no longer do forced marriages. See what I mean? I’d feel entirely different if it was his tenure as a professor that was in question. He must not suffer any ‘real’ loss, but is this deanship a real loss? Whereas one might applaud the virtue of trying to educate these children in spite of themselves, sometimes one is better to use reverse psychology — let the twits ‘win’. Let them embarrass themselves. If I was one of them, I know I’d be demanding a dolphin for dean because I don’t feel I have a safe space when I’m under the authority of a monkey.

    • Andrew Worth says

      Frankly Ray, for your defense of Harvard I think you should be band from Quillette, perhaps to placate me you should just retire from commenting here.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Andrew Worth

        Pure and virtuous thinking Andrew, yes I have just enough shed of decency left in me that I can understand how I’d need to be executed.

        • Andrew Worth says

          Ray, did you hear that whooshing sound?

    • E. Olson says

      Interesting perspective Ray, and I might add that another “bright” side of this situation is that Harvard wasn’t afraid of being called racist for “firing” a black professor from his house master role. I disagree, however, that this firing was a legitimate response to the student complaints, since no evidence is presented that he was derelict in his duties or that there were student complaints before he signed on to defend Weinstein. Sullivan was the same person the day before as the day after his “disqualifying” act, which as the author clearly demonstrates is a fitting and honorable role for a law professor to partake in. This could have clearly been used by the administration as a “learning moment” to educate students with a real world demonstration about constitutional rights, but instead the only lesson received by students will be that whiny snowflakes get their way.

      • ” since no evidence is presented that he was derelict in his duties or that there were student complaints before he signed on to defend Weinstein.”

        There is evidence that he was derelict.

        “The problems included a revolving door of House Administrators, threats to push out resident tutors Sullivan and Robinson perceived as disloyal, and repeated meetings with College administrators about concerns with the faculty deans’ leadership. At one point in 2016, more than half of the Winthrop resident tutor staff made a pact to leave the House in protest, though they ultimately stayed.”

        Harvard may have seen this latest controversy as a golden opportunity to get a problematic black man out of the house.

        • E. Olson says

          Interguru – Thanks for the information. Assuming it is accurate, the only problem I have with Harvard is their dishonesty in explaining the reason for getting rid of him, because the fake reason is much more damaging than the real reason, but I can only assume they were otherwise afraid of being called racist.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @E. Olson

            If @Interguru is right then Harvard is being expedient rather than honorable, but the Professor’s Intersectional score is high enough to make him untouchable unless he commits an incorrectness — a sin against wokeness — so you hafta work with what you’ve got.

        • Jon Burack says

          I read this article, too. I saw a ton of innuendo but not one single solitary actual fact about anything Sullivan did wrong. I saw lots of hurt feelings and claims of his insensitivity. I am sorry, but THAT is not evidence, it is gossip. Besides, it was all several years old, ginned up just as ancient gossip about Kavanaugh had been, long after the fact of what it was Sullivan did wrong. What he did wrong was to defend a man as a lawyer is supposed to. The rest is excuses for bending to a mob. Harvard has disgraced itself.

          Also, I lived in one of these houses – Adams house, 1961-65. It was a DORMITORY. We slept, ate, and occasionally showered there. Otherwise we were gloriously free to go to classes, study in the library, Cambridge, Boston, the world at our feet. Tutors were there to make sure we obeyed the parietal hours, which we did reluctantly. Otherwise, no one looked to them for comfort or any other damn thing. I say to today’s colossally pampered Harvard Kings and Queens, get down off your pedestals, no one is weeping a single tear, nor should they.,

        • Serenity Now says

          Then why didn’t they cite that when removing him? This reeks of capitulation to the mob – whether or not that is the case – and sets a dangerous precedent for Harvard and other institutions of learning.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @E. Olson

        Taking my inspiration from Prof. S himself, I feel the need to give Harvard the best defense I can. My case rests entirely on the notion that the deanship is sort of like a friendship in that it simply can’t be enforced however much we might wish to. This ties in with my views on the Famous Gay Cake: why would you force someone to employ their artistic talents to make an expression that they detest? Would you expect their work to be good? Even if I had the Right to force a gay baker to decorate my cake with “God Hates Fags”, I really don’t know why I’d want to do so except to manufacture a grievance.

        But if the deanship is nothing like a friendship or a matter of subjective trust or something of that nature, then the defense folds. This is on it’s face just another example of pandering quite clearly.

      • Alan Gore says

        If you’re black but take a position against liberal orthodoxy, your skin will be revoked. This is sometimes known as the Clarence Thomas clause.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Alan Gore

          It is always the case in these reign of terror situations that no matter how far one rises, one’s downfall can be both instantaneous and absolute. Robespierre ruled one day and was dead the next. There are no demotions, you are in power or you are dead. Camille Paglia is worse than dead, she is anathema, she is almost male. Gloria Steinem was once the queen of feminism, now she too is anathema. Clarence Thomas is white. The higher you rise, the more perfect your correctness must be. All Victims must shed exactly the right tears.

      • Bill says

        And let us not forget the argument for another party in this case. Would Harvard have faced lawsuits had they, instead of firing Sullivan, dismissed all of the students who protested instead? Their attendance and admission at Harvard is not a right either; however, I suspect that if the complainants had been dismissed they would have been subject to complaints and Government action under Title IX during the prior administration (and possibly this one) just as they are facing legal exposure to their admissions policies.

    • I think the issue here is that we (correctly or incorrectly) expect better from Harvard than we do the KKK.

    • Sullivan is not being harmed in any substantive way is he?

      Arguably, the harm is not to Sullivan himself, but to the trust in the institutions of justice and the people who must participate in this process without being tarnished with a fallacious guilt be association.

      Then again, harm isn’t even necessarily the right way to view this. It’s a common mistake to conflate ethics with measures of harm, but they do not fully capture the diversity of human ethical reasoning, and it’s simple to demonstrate this by example:

      Suppose you’re in a romantic relationship, but are presented with an opportunity to cheat on your partner with literally zero chance of an STD and zero chance that they would ever find out. So there is zero chance of physical or emotional harm to either of you, but some benefit for you given you’ll have fun. Do you cheat?

      If all you consider is harm, then you should arguably cheat. I suspect most people would strongly disagree with this conclusion.

  4. peterschaeffer says

    In the PC worldview, Redcoats are simply the other side. They did not violate PC. By contrast, Harvey Weinstein is beyond the pale. Any evil act or thought can be forgiven. Except for transgressions against PC.

    • Serenity says

      peterschaeffer: “Any evil act or thought can be forgiven. Except for transgressions against PC.”

      Spot on. PC is manifestation of tyranny. It dogmatizes sacred taboos, stigmatizes any deviation and takes precedence over the rule of law.

      Diminishing diversity of opinion focuses attention of SJW mob on those few who dare to transgress. Sacredness of dogma encourages and justifies harassment of the nonconformists.

      Driven by envy and unbridled competitiveness mobbing takes out the prominent and talented, accommodating upward mobility for the politically correct mediocrities.

  5. C Young says

    Unreal. These attitudes would be disappointing to see in a teenager of average intelligence.

  6. Morgan Foster says

    I encourage every graduate of Harvard’s law school to immediately cancel all donations to Harvard and the law school itself.

  7. stevengregg says

    Harvard radicals do not want rule by law. They want their tribe to rule peremptorily.

  8. Andrew Scott says

    I’m not agreeing with Harvard by a long shot. But there are some murky areas involved when we say that someone “deserve” legal representation. Everyone is entitled to it. “Deserve” is a moral statement, not a legal one. Does the person actually deserve such representation? It depends, to some extent, on whether or not they did that of which they’re accused, and if so, why.

    In other words, if I murder my neighbor because I don’t like him, I’m legally entitled to a defense. What do I deserve? Prison or death, nothing more. I don’t even deserve the legal defense.

    While I respect the point of view of many defense attorneys because they see things differently than I do, I still sometimes find it reprehensible when they defend someone knowing that person has done something vile. It’s valid from a legal perspective. It’s not an endorsement. That’s how the legal system works.

    But from a moral perspective it’s problematic if the lawyer knows that the defendant has done something morally wrong and acts to protect them from consequences. The law doesn’t declare innocence – it fails to find guilt. In a similar way, the law cannot make the actions of a defense attorney morally right. It’s all just legal. Morality has nothing to do with it.

    That’s the problem with our entire system of justice. The overall intentions are noble, but the implementation is a Thunderdome in which two sides fight over opposing outcomes. I find prosecutors who seek convictions for the sake of convictions just as bad as many defense attorneys. To destroy another person’s life and/or incarcerate him for the sake of one’s own career isn’t just reprehensible – it’s evil. You can’t justify it by saying that they had a defense and the system worked.

    If two teams fight over outcomes, in many cases one side, the other, or both is not pursuing justice. How can any system hope to hit that target without aiming for it?

    • Farris says

      @Ray Scott
      The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides criminal defendants the right to assistance of counsel. The case law there under provides that said counsel must be considered effective to be meaningful. Therefore it is right to effective assistance of counsel which if violated can be grounds for over turning the conviction. You may be correct the defendant does not deserve effective assistance of counsel but he is legally entitled to such representation. When a lawyer provides effective representation to even the most despicable, he is insuring that the conviction is secure.

      • Jay Salhi says

        Moreover, if society punishes lawyers who take on unpopular clients we undermine the right to effective representation and reduce the likelihood that convictions will be sincere. Widespread behavior of the kind displayed by Harvard would undermine the integrity of the legal system. This is despicable, inexcusable behavior.

    • D Ralph says

      The role of criminal defense lawyer serves many different social functions. One immediate function is to argue for the client’s innocence (and this is function that Andrew Scott addresses). But other functions are arguably more important for the long-term strength of liberal democracy and the “rule of law” writ large. For example, the criminal defense lawyer strives to prevent police officers from lying under oath. The defense lawyer scrutinizes judicial processes to ensure that the state (the district attorney and/or the judge) do not trample on the defendant’s rights. The defense lawyer pleads for mercy, when there is a range of possible charges or sentences. To state this another way: In a restricted sense, the client is the person accused of a criminal offense. In a larger sense, the client comprises all citizens — present and future — who might someday encounter the power of the state (and its monopoly on legitimate violence, to cite Max Weber). Such encounters always systematically favor the state over the puny individual, and defense lawyers mean to even the balance of power.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @D Ralph

        Well said.

        “to argue for the client’s innocence”

        Or perhaps to demand proof of guilt, which is not exactly the same thing.

        • JGO says

          So true, a not guilty verdict means the elements of a crime have not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, nothing more. The verdict says nothing about innocence.

    • derek says

      You are missing a fundamental point. This isn’t you murdering someone. It is you being accused of breaking a law, and the government wants to enforce the law by punishing you. The government has all power at their disposal; they could send six large men and beat you to death based on a rumour. The right to trial in accordance with the laws and legal traditions, with the government limited by having to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty before punishing you. For there to be a fair trial you must be represented by competent legal representation, not because you deserve anything but because the trial would not be fair without it.

      I for one would gladly support and participate in a good beating of Weinstein, but that too is against the law and I would be prosecuted for participating.

      So if Weinstein broke the law, the government can charge him, as they have. They then have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt his guilt. To do that fairly he needs competent representation.

      The students who supported this action should be expelled.

      • Andrew Scott says

        Would the government seek to convict me of a crime that I might not have committed? Would they try to force me to confess? If unchecked, would they subvert the law to unjustly accuse and then punish me?

        The answer is usually no. Police and prosecutors are out to get the bad guys. But the answer is often yes. You can’t always trust them to do the right thing for the right reasons. They’re imperfect. Sometimes they’re evil.

        Adding a defense into that mix is going to help some. And if the mindset of the prosecution is to convict whoever they can however they can, then the defense might as well play by those rules, too.

        That’s what the justice system is to me. There are good people with honorable intentions, corrupt people who just want to win, and a spectrum in between. They fight it out. Money plays a huge role, which is fundamentally contradictory to the idea of justice.

        I’m not proposing anarchy. It is what it is, and as bad as the implementation often sucks I get that it started with good intentions and sometimes it ends up that way. Every alternative involves people, and those people would still act on a spectrum from good to evil.

        I just don’t get why people seem so reverent towards it. It’s not justice. It’s law, and its outcomes are both just and unjust. If you protect an innocent person from going to prison you’re okay. If you drop the full weight of the law on someone who is innocent or not as guilty, you’re evil. If you get rich helping guilty people go free you’re a reprehensible sleaze.

        You can’t replace the law with human judgment because people are flawed and corrupt. You can’t practice law without flawed, corrupt people. It’s better than nothing, and that society tries at all is an accomplishment. Good for us. It’s just not as impressive as people seem to think.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Andrew Scott

      Well said. Yes ‘deserve’ is not the right word.

    • Peter from Oz says


      ”I still sometimes find it reprehensible when they defend someone knowing that person has done something vile”
      Nobody knows for a fact that an accused has done something vile until either the accused admits to it or the 12 old darlings in the jury box decide beyond all reasonable doub that the accused is guilty as charged. Therefore, a defence lawyer can only ”know” whether a client is guilty if the client confesses in conference or the jury finds the client guilty.
      If the client confesses to the lawyer, then the lawyer cannot lead any evidence in the case or cross examine any witness on the basis that someone else may have done the crime. All the defence lawyer can do in such a situation is advise the client to plead guilty, put on no evidence and let the prosecution put the matter to the proof (which will undoubtedly mean a conviction) or resign from the case.
      The lawyer’s first duty is not to the client but to the law and the Court. It follows that a lawyer who knows his or her client is guilty must not act contrary to the fair administration of justice. This does not mean that the lawyer is required to inform anyone about the guilt of his or her client. But it does mean that the lawyer cannot run an active defence for that client.

  9. Kevin Herman says

    Did Liz Cheney start a mass campaign to get someone fired? Weak attempt to get some kind of equivocation going.

    • EK says

      Styling Liz Cheney as a populist is also odd. She’s a dyed in the wool, second generation Neo-con.

  10. Rev. Wazoo! says

    @Andrew Scott
    A person who kills another is a killer but murder is a legal definition and only a court can define someone as such. Are soldiers murderers? They kill in cold blood without even the excuse of disliking the people they kill who might well be law-abiding family men.

    If the innocent accused deserve’ legal counsel so does everyone or else no one is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. I suspect Weinstein’s guilty of many crimes but were he now also accused of murder, would he not ‘deserve’ legal counsel? Is he in fact guilty of every crime he has been charged with?

    Have exactly zero false accusations been added to those I think he’s guilty of? Has absolutely no person thought to jump on the bandwagon and try to get a slice of his fortune?

    Courts exist as fact-finding institutions; they cannot function as such without rigorous defense against every assertion of the prosecution. It’s the pursuit of truth which requires every defendant to deserve counsel because we all deserve to know the truth.

    • Andrew Scott says


      Murder is a crime both legally and morally. Otherwise what would you call it if one person kills another and is never charged because no one finds out?

      I wouldn’t define all war as murder, but many soldiers do murder people.

      You’re confusing deserving with entitlement and moral with legal. I’m not disputing that legally a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and therefore all people are equally entitled to a legal defense.

      Moral and legal aren’t necessarily at odds, but sometimes they are. Harvard is a school of law, not of morality, so it’s baffling that they would uphold morality over law.

      My issue is a bit narrower than finding fault with Sullivan. In context I agree that Harvard’s decision makes no sense. My issue is with “deserve” which is a moral judgment, not a legal one. Likewise, when we say that a person is presumed innocent, that refers to legal innocence, not moral innocence. A person is legally guilty when convicted. A person is morally guilty when they commit an act. They may never be legally guilty. Similarly a person can be legally guilty without doing anything wrong. The distinction is important.

      I’m not addressing Sullivan’s case in particular. But in general, it is certainly possible for a legal defense to be morally wrong. If I know that you raped someone, because you told me in confidence that you did, and I receive payment in return for using my skills to clear your name, that is legal but morally wrong. To deny that is to miss the difference between what is legal and what is moral.

      • GSW says

        “If I know that you raped someone, because you told me in confidence that you did, and I receive payment in return for using my skills to clear your name, that is legal but morally wrong.” @Andrew Scott

        No. Lawyers can be legally (and, I suppose, morally) “wrong” if they present evidence as officers of the court that they know to be false. Other than that, their vigourous defence of every one of their clients upholds the underlying “morality” of our common law legal system where the presumption of innocence protects all citizens from the arbitrary use of state power against individuals.

        • Andrew Scott says

          @GSW Thought experiment: I’m the lawyer. My client tells me in confidence that he raped someone. I know he did it. There’s an eyewitness and DNA evidence. I convince the jury that the eyewitness was unreliable and that the DNA evidence was mishandled because that is what will keep my client from getting convicted. I get paid for it.

          Perhaps we can agree to disagree. I have not protected my client from any arbitrary use of state power. I’ve protected him from the consequences of his actions. If he rapes someone else the next day, it’s because I used my skills to help him remain free. I helped someone get away with doing something wrong in exchange for money and eased my conscience by telling myself that I ‘upheld the underlying morality of our common legal law system.’

          Legal, yes. Moral? By what twisted, empty meaning of “moral?” We might as well say that the rapist didn’t do anything wrong either since he wasn’t convicted.

          Does making something legal make it moral? Can an act be immoral in one place and moral across a state line? Is an immoral act less immoral if one is not tried and convicted? Can an act be moral, become immoral, and then become moral again if the laws change? The answer to all four is yes if we equate legality with morality. To do so makes morality meaningless. It leaves the determination of what is or is not moral up to – God help us – politicians. We might as well let priests decide when it’s okay for boys to have sex.

          Legality and morality are not opposed. Bad people get convicted for good reasons. But if we equate them then we don’t understand what morality is.

          • Blue Lobster says

            Andrew Scott,

            Criminal law in the United States does not propose to legislate morality. Acts defined as criminal do not cover the full range of behaviors that might be considered immoral or unethical. Some immoral acts are crimes, many are not. Only acts which theoretically damage society as a whole are considered criminal. The obvious reason for this is that what is considered moral or ethical will vary widely depending on individual perspective.

          • GSW says

            “Perhaps we can agree to disagree.” @Andrew Scott

            No. You’re missing the big picture (or the forest for the trees). It’s a tried and true system with 1000 years of historical development.

            Criminal lawyers are officers of the court not personal friends/boosters/confessors of their accused clients. Their job/function is NOT to judge a client’s guilt or innocence – the justice system spreads that responsibility among several officers (notably prosecutors, judges) – but to defend the accused’s interests as best they can in adversarial proceedings organized by the state. Many criminal lawyers by habit never ask their clients directly if they are guilty or innocent because if they know as a fact their client is guilty they are restricted from presenting to the court certain types of defences based on false or fraudulent evidence.

            Criminal defence lawyers are paid to mount a legal defence for all their clients. Consider the role of a surgeon in performing life-saving surgery on a person they believe to be a rapist (to use your example.) Do they have the right to refuse care because “he might rape someone the next day”? Is she/he “immoral” if they get paid for doing their best possible job?

          • Peter from Oz says

            ” I’m the lawyer. My client tells me in confidence that he raped someone. I know he did it. There’s an eyewitness and DNA evidence. I convince the jury that the eyewitness was unreliable and that the DNA evidence was mishandled because that is what will keep my client from getting convicted.”
            That’s against the rules. The same happens in civil law cases. Many of my clients have told me in confidence that they have committed the act that gives rise to the action. As soon as they do that I can no longer argue in proceedings that they did not commit the act. All I can do is either tell the client to settle the matter or to get a new lawyer.
            The idea that there are lots of lawyers out there getting self confessed criminals acquitted is not credible.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Andrew Scott

            ” I have not protected my client from any arbitrary use of state power.”

            The problem you address is very real and it has been debated since at least the Romans. The reason that the adversary system prevails is that it is the only way to keep standards up. What you have protected your client from is being convicted on insufficient evidence. If we start thinking about ‘justice’ rather than law, we can let our feelings — what we ‘just know’ — start to prevail. When blacks were lynched back in the day, the mob were interested in ‘justice’ not law, and so they did what they ‘just knew’ was right. We feel justice is better than law, but in the end law is more secure. It would be nice to have it both ways tho.

          • Stephanie says

            I appreciate your point, Andrew, but I think a vigorous defense is still moral even when the lawyer is sure that the defendant is guilty. Confessions can be motivated by fear of what the real criminal would do if ratted out, or desire to protect a loved one. I imagine cases where the defendant indeed committed the crime, has confessed, and the defense attorney is successful at getting them off scot-free are rare; more often, the defense attorney just figures that the accused is guilty. In this case, if they chose not to act as if they thought the accused was innocent, they would be neglecting their duty. That’s my sense of it, anyway, I can’t claim any particular expertise.

      • Rev. Wazoo! says

        @Andrew Scott
        Thank you for your thoughtful, insightful reply and I agree with you that there’s a difference between legally and morally guilty. I think we differ regarding the existence of both moral and legal imperatives and I contend both unfortunate are denoted by the same word. : ‘deserve’.

        Whereas I would feel it immoral to defend in court the innocent plea of someone I knew to have committed the crime they’re accused of, I feel it would also be immoral if they had no competent counsel. Our legal system, like our scientific method, requires best arguments on both sides to move towards the truth despite admittedly faltering steps.

        A legal system, like a moral one, can create the meaning of ‘deserve’: the accused deserves a fair trial despite being morally guilty before being found legally guilty. That people legally deserve due process etc is not especially for their protection but legally and morally for our protection.

        These join together in the moral admonishon that it’s best to limit legal power such that innocents aren’t found legally guilty despite that restriction inevitably sparing some of the morally guilty.

        We all deserve the chance to not to be falsely convicted even though that will prevent some from being rightly convicted. The Prof was falsely held to be the proximate cause of an untenable climate when he was innocent of that.

  11. Farris says

    The bottom line is a society should want the most unpopular and undesirable to have the best defense possible. Not just because of the presumption of innocence but also because it demonstrates the fundamental even handedness of the system. The convicted defendant can not be heard to complain his conviction arose only from substandard representation.

    • Closed Range says


      I think you put it well. It accomplishes two goals: If even the most unpleasant people are allowed a professional defense, it gives every citizen the knowledge that, if ever it comes to it, they will have their fair treatment. Second, It further legitimises any conviction and punishment that is subsequently enforced, as people then know that it was not decided on the whim of a tyrant.

      It seems ironic to me that just as universities are so anxious about their links to historical slavery that they are falling into modes of thinking from the darkest depths of despotism.

      • Andrew Scott says

        If I’m accused of raping a few women will I get a legal defense like Weinstein’s or OJ’s? Their defense doesn’t increase my confidence that I would get the same “fair treatment.” “Every citizen” doesn’t have that knowledge. It’s not credible. No one does or should take it seriously.

        • EK says

          @A Scott

          The thing about your hypothetical is that unless the eyewitness already knows the accused, eyewitness testimony is not all that unreliable and state labs are notorious for mishandling evidence.

          So, even if your client said he or she did it you still have duty to put the state to its proof by cross examining the eyewitness and questioning the chain of evidence and expert testimony.

          Currently, conviction rates in the US are well above 95%. We used describe such conviction rates as prima facile evidence of a police state.

        • The defense of OJ and Weinstein often provide precedence that even us less fortunate can use in our defense. Additionally, many if the most high profile lawyers do considerable pro bono work. OJ’s lawyer also defended Randy Weaver after the ATF entrapped him and the FBI and Marshals killed his wife and son. Weaver was an unsympathetic character, a white separatist (though he denied being a white supremacist and stated he disagreed with the Aryan Nation’s), but the treatment of his family was beyond the pale. The Weaver case was a perfect example of why defense attorneys and a rigorous defense is needed, no matter how much you may disagree with the defendant.

    • And, how often has the media presented a case only for more evidence to come forward? I once watched a National Geographic Special on the Rodney King beating. The media never showed the full video, like the jury saw. It put things in slightly different perspective. Yes, the cops overused force but it was not entirely unwarranted. The lawyers did their jobs, but the media had convinced the public that the beating had occurred in a vacuum. And the DA overcharged (which often happens in highly publicized cases). King kept resisting arrest and was physically aggressive. He was tased multiple times with little effect on his behavior. Even once on the ground he continued to try and attack the police officers. The jury felt there wasn’t enough evidence to support the DA’s charges. So the acquitted.
      District Attorney’s are often worse then defense attorneys and often have better resources (especially compared to public defenders offices). Additionally, there is quite a controversy, albeit only within certain scientific circles, as to the reliability of many forensic tests. Few have ever been independently verified (in fact forensic dentistry, when tested under controlled circumstances by independent testers failed to be any more accurate then random chance and fingerprint ID and ballistics have similar troubles). The need for a tough defense, especially in high profile cases (and when the media has presented one view point) is necessary. We are not villagers calling some woman a witch because she turned us into a newt but we got better.

  12. E. Olson says

    The whole “me too” movement is built on railroading the accused with no presumption of innocence and no attempt to provide justice and fairness to both the accuser and accused. Under Obama Dept of Education guidelines, students are having their lives ruined with no proof beyond the word of the “victim” and no consideration of extenuating circumstances such as; was alcohol involved, and did the victim report the crime immediately or did she sext wanting some more attention from the supposed perpetrator after supposed incident? The accused are often not allowed to question their accusers, or have lawyers to defend themselves. Powerful men are also finding themselves accused of various forms of inappropriate behavior years or decades after said events supposedly occurred, as “victims” look for their 15 minutes of fame, or payback for the lack of career help or monetary reward they felt they deserved in exchange for their sexual acts. Whether they are the true victims or actual rapists, the accused certainly deserve to be properly defended, and it is very sad that elite students and administrators no longer support innocent until proven guilty (at least until they find themselves accused). We can only hope this sort of infringement on Constitutional Rights isn’t being taught as part of the law school curriculum.

    Perhaps the more troubling recent legal development, however, is the use of the legal process to punish political opponents or to make law without winning elections or passing legislation. All the Left needs is a judge without knowledge or interest in following the Constitution, and happy to rule in the direction that favors the Left. Can’t open get Congress to open the borders, then find a local judge who is willing to overstep his/her duties and jurisdiction by stopping the nationwide enforcement of immigration laws passed by Congress – sure you’ll likely lose in the Supreme Court, but that will take years and in the meantime the borders are open. Can’t make a case of collusion against Trump, then find a judge who will approve a fishing expedition or the roughing up some small fry with 5 AM SWAT raids and huge legal bills to create some evidence – sure you’ll likely get nothing but in the meantime you can thwart the agenda of the opposition party. Unfortunately, I expect this sort of corruption of the Constitutional separation of powers is taught as good practice in law school.

    • Stephanie says

      If it makes you feel any better, E. Olsen, I got sexually harassed by a prominent Berkeley professor in front of half the Berkeley (and Stanford) faculties. After consulting no relevant witnesses, and despite my having contemporaneously documented the interaction in emails to my supervisor and other academic mentors, the Title IX office found that while his behaviour was inappropriate, it hadn’t impacted my career enough to be deemed harassment. I guess getting railroaded only happens to undergraduates having one night stands, professors with politically incorrect opinions, and cases that have garnered too much media attention.

      • E. Olson says

        Sorry for your experience Stephanie, and despite what you may have inferred by my comment I think sexual harassment is something that should be taken serious and offenders should be punished. Unfortunately, all the false claims take the seriousness away from the real claims, and of course if the offender is of the right (meaning Left) political persuasion and is deemed “irreplaceable” by the powers that be it takes iron clad proof of something approaching gang rape or murder to get taken seriously – the Fairfax case in Virginia that disappeared quickly is recent example.

    • neoteny says

      find a local judge who is willing to overstep his/her duties and jurisdiction by stopping the nationwide enforcement of immigration laws passed by Congress

      ‘Local’ judges can’t do that: only Article III judges can do that, i.e. federal district judges.

  13. Alan Geal says

    It seems as if the inner-defenses have fallen: academic bastions have crumbled before, early in the thirteenth century, in the face of violent and hostile townsmen, many scholars abandoned Oxford and fled to Cambridge. Hence the second eminent foundation of learning. Perhaps some well-endowed citizens could now assist Harvard scholars to repeat the exercise.

  14. Were I an administrator at Harvard, and had I the educational interests of my students at heart (OK…that’s absurd, I know), I can think of no better experience for them than to have to engage with a decent, honorable, thoughtful person (such as Sullivan) with whom they (the student(s)) may strongly disagree on some issue. The ability to get along with, and work productively with, people with whom we have had profound disagreements is one of life’s critical skills—one of the skills that makes a civilized society work! This ability is even more important for leaders. It seems that Harvard is no longer in the business of nurturing leaders.

    • Margaret Mahon says

      You don’t seem to know the job description of a Faculty Dean at Harvard. Sullivan job as Faculty Dean is to live and eat in a dormitory of undergraduate students, not law students, and create a home for them in that dormitory. His job is forge a community. He can be decent and honorable but he has not managed to communicate with students well enough to reach common ground. Don’t blame the students who are 18-22 years old and trying their best to survive and graduate. Don’t presume to know what a good experience is for them. Hopefully, the students will take the world we hand to them and heal it.

  15. Dean Khurana needs to be removed. He persecutes students for belonging to single sex clubs, and now won’t defend an attorney’s duty to defend the accused.

    Whenever there are questions regarding freedom, I feel universities and colleges have a duty to err on the side of more freedom. Khurana seem to err on the side of less liberty.

  16. Love Trump or hate him,we all know the following thought experiment is ‘true’;

    if Trump were assassinated and Sullivan became the lawyer for the accused, Harvard would have been first among the usual suspects to laud his courage and remind us of F. Lee Bailey’s dictum that even the despicable deserve representation.

    A pox upon their house.

  17. Joe says

    Reminds me of that scene from Bolt’s “A Man For All Seasons” where Thomas More’s son-in-law goes into a rant about how the King’s henchmen were out to get More, and that he would cut down laws to get to the devil. More, who has his head on the line (literally and figuratively) admonishes him pointing out that if you cut down the bramble (i.e., the laws) to get to the devil, where will you hide when the devil turns on you?

  18. GrumpyBear says

    I wonder when Harvard will begin to tire of their hyper-sensitive, illiberal, insult-obsessed student body. Harvard rejects more than 20 applicants for every one that they accept, so the attitudes, values and behavior of the students are entirely a result of Harvard’s own admission policies.

    I can see that struggling universities like Evergreen or Missouri might not have a choice but to accept everyone that can get, but there’s no reason for an even mildly selective university to put up with this crap.

    • Margaret Mahon says

      Harvard rejected 95-96 students for every one they admitted this year.

      • GrumpyBear says

        you’re right, thanks, I meant to say they reject more than 20 times as many as they accept

        • GL says

          Actually, for what it’s worth I think that the your original statement that Harvard rejects around 20 applicants for each one accepted is accurate (which is the same as rejecting more than 20 times as many as accepted). For the latest class, Harvard received around 43,300 applications and accepted around 1950, for an acceptance rate of 4.5%. Thus, for every applicant accepted, around 21 were rejected.

  19. Richard says

    I hated those arrogant Harvard twits when I walked through the front door at 77 Mass. Avenue 45 years ago. They’ve only shown themselves to be far worse all that time later. A pox on them.

  20. Lightning Rose says

    Sounds to me like the PC culture of Harvard no longer fits well with the Real World, which seems to be where Mr. Sullivan sensibly resides. Since you can’t win a rational argument with irrational people, best he retire to more productive activities with his dignity intact.

    The really scary thing is thinking about what the output of Harvard Law will be capable of in a few years . . .

  21. Rick says

    It seems that not a week goes by without another dramatic “social justice” episode at a fancy college somewhere. While I am fascinated by the horrors of these scenarios, and enjoy reading about the details and the players of “the game”, I’ve begun to realize that there seems to be a distinct lack of healthy testosterone levels involved in the defense.

    Obviously, it’s quite fashionable in our current year to deride “masculinity” and then observe as record numbers of men kill themselves, but I’d wager that men like John Adams had a higher testosterone level and greater masculine development than the men involved in these academic spectacles. Perhaps one way to deal with the ongoing crisis in academia would be for masculine leadership to re-emerge and embody the courage and fortitude that it takes to weather the storm of emotional fury with sound reasoning and an overall toughness that is all but vanishing from particular segments of our society. (The current strategy of kowtowing to the emotional madness of children is simply not sustainable.)

    • Aerth says

      Yup. To put it more simple – it won’t end untill there will emerge enough people that have cojones and are in position of power to simply say “no” to mob demands.

    • Alan Geal says

      @ Rick

      The given example of John Adams is reinforced by another Bostonian Adams, one Samuel Adams, who warned: The truth is, all might be free if they valued freedom, and defended it as they ought.

      Has the School of Law at Havard become oxymoronic and its putative guardians utterly craven in their defense of the Rule of Law?

  22. Weasels Ripped My Flesh says

    Places like Harvard helped create the SJW mob. This is not surrendering to the mob. This is the mob in routine action. This guy might as well have announced that there are only two genders ….

  23. Sean Leith says

    I wonder how many black law students there are if there is not for affirmative action.

    • Aerth says

      Left managed to divide people between so many groups that it is easier and easier to “offend” this or that group and anger the mob. Women are protected unless they “offend” trans activists. Afro Americans are protected unless they “attack” meToo and so on.

    • ms100 says

      We already know from the Harvard Asian bias trial that, if Harvard only based admissions on academic merit, that the class would only be 1% or less of blacks and hispanics each. You can be sure that, at Harvard Law, it would be even less. I know someone at Harvard Medical School and when I ask about who struggles, it’s blacks. And then there was the debacle of Amy Wax’s statement of blacks’ poor performance at UPenn Law School.

  24. Aerth says

    How great I live in a country where colleges are there only to provide higher education for people willing to get it.

  25. Brad Leutwyler says

    1) Any “good” lawyer knows that it is what you do not know that is dangerous. To paraphrase the non-Harvard professor Mad Eye Moody, I would imagine that what we do not know could fill several large books. It is easy to pain this as a free speech issue or a race issue in the absence of full information and so many of us assume. Way to go, smart people.

    2) It seems as though everyone is mad at people for being people. Humans are flawed. We do things to others that we do not accept when they do it to us, yet we do it anyway. If one is going to adhere to a creed, consistency is legitimacy. Academics do not like being told that they cannot talk about certain things but are all too quick to punish “internally” for the same “offenses.” It is an epidemic of spineless hypocrisy that will only change when the opinions being censored are the ones that they hold affinity for. Foster not anger nor ill will. Buster Scruggs said it best, “I don’t hate my fellow man, even when he’s tiresome and surly and tries to cheat at poker. I figure that’s just a human material, and him that finds in it cause for anger and dismay is just a fool for expecting better.” Humans rarely fail to live down to my expectations.

  26. WeekzQ says

    Thanks for this piece. It’s one more nail in the coffin for me about why I tell my younger siblings and cousins to not attend university/college unless it is for a STEM degree. Via the internet many subjects can be studied to a very high level without formal education. I know enough people who have forged their own paths outside of formal tertiary education to know it is possible. What goes on at the institutions, in the liberal arts and humanities departments in particular, is nothing short of propaganda. I hope we see the reputation of these schools go to dust, and the value of a university degree called into question in general.

  27. Peter from Oz says

    I find it intersting that in the US law professors actually practise law. Here in Oz a few barristers may do some part-time teaching to bolster their incomes whilst building up their practices, but on the whole academic lawyers don’t have a practising certificate.
    Mr Sullavan is obviously a brilliant lawyer. WHy should he bother with helping these ungrateful herberts at Harvard? Why not just practise law and let the little darlings at Harvard stew in their own juices?

  28. Adam Selene says

    This capitulation by universities to the mob was analysed prophetically by Ayn Rand in 1965 in her essay “Cashing In: The Student Rebellion,”which appears in the essay collection The Return of the Primitive.

    Rand says the fact that university administrations offered no ideological counter argument to the students, merely appeasement, demonstrated that there were no fundamental roadblocks in their way. And so it has turned out – uncontested absurdities that trashed important principles of our culture have become accepted slogans.

    Some quotes from that essay:

    “Hence the incredible spectacle of brute force, hoodlum tactics and militantly explicit irrationality being brought to a university campus – being met by vague, uncertain, apologetic concessions, the stale generalisations, the evasive platitudes of the alleged defenders of academic law and order.”

    “The student rebellion is an eloquent demonstration of the fact that when men abandon reason, they open the door to physical force as the only alternative and the inevitable consequence.”

    “If the universities – the supposed citadels of reason, knowledge, scholarship, civilisation – can be made to surrender to the rule of brute force, the rest of the country is cooked.”

    • Peter from Oz says

      This isn’t just the way that students behave. It is a universal manner of acting when a group wants power but doesn’t have any actual arguments justifying the grant of power. It’s the way that ismaists behave too. The point is that there is a certain soppy kind of liberal who actually believes that the nastier someone is in the more they must have a real grievance. The soppy liberal or ”let’s-be-kind-to-them” conservative gives in not to argument but to conviction.
      I actually heard a liberal make the point once. ”Those muslim terrorists must be seriously upset, otherwise they would never act in such anuncivilised manner.”

      • Adam Selene says

        Yes, the currencies now are passion, not reason; feeling, not thought; conviction, not skepticism; faith, not doubt. The return of primitive.

        But if differences cannot be settled by reason, and are settled by the most passionate conviction, then all that’s left is escalating zealotries.

        Civil war may be coming.

  29. Thomas Barnidge says

    If it was Harvey Weinstein the deli owner, sales clerk, or a red-coated soldier, would professor Sullivan have taken the case? And would the Harvard crowd protest as much? Yes, the mob is out of control; but lets not get sanctimonious about the professor. He’s getting a big payday; if Weinstein was a nobody the professor most likely would have said ‘here’s the phone number for the public defenders’ office’

    • This is not about Sullivan’s choices of clients, his motives, etc. It is about punishing a lawyer because his client is unpopular. If complaining about that makes us sanctimonious, so be it. The principle of innocent until proven guilty is worth a few sneers.

    • Stephanie says

      Thomas, interestingly Sullivan does occasionally represent nobodies, like Michael Brown’s family. Someone pointed out after the last article that people like Sullivan use what they earn from their high-paying clients to cover expenses for pro bono clients.

      This adds a layer of irony: Sullivan himself is probably an SJW who helped cultivate the very environment that is now demolishing him.

      • Peter from Oz says

        I wonder why anyone with a busy lucrative law practice would bother having anything to do with academia. Why put up with all the PC rubbish and the whiny students when you can enjoy real intellectual challenges?

        • ms100 says

          Because you can make good bank with an academic job, particularly at Harvard. Warren made $350k for teaching just two courses. Sullivan, having more intersectional points, might be making much more. Plus, many of the faculty who are recruited can make deals where they get a lot of money to put down on a house. That type of academic position allows copious time to earn lucrative money as a speaker, writing books, etc… And if you want to take off time, you got it. The dirty secret is that the faculty at Harvard Law and Business school make more than the faculty at the Medical School who are doing life saving research. Hypocrisy at Harvard when they allow inequality like that.

          The other thing about being a dean of a house is you get to live in very nice Harvard housing and you can rent your real residence out for a lot of money.

    • Alan Geal says

      @ Peter Barnidge

      Your straw man is sorely in need of a trim with Occam’s razor…

  30. GL says


    I graduated from Harvard Law School in the 1980s. I and many, many other graduates are disappointed and ashamed of Harvard University and its leaders (?). When I was at the school, there were many high profile professors who represented extremely controversial defendants–bombers, anarchists, pornographers, et al. While many students did not share the politics of the professors, no one ever questioned their right to defend these clients; the attitude was more adult and mature.

    Morgan Foster has it right–if the leaders at your alma mater (Harvard or many others) are not showing the necessary character and integrity, do not donate any more.


    • Margaret Mahon says

      You were a law student in the law school. The problem involves undergraduate students living in a dormitory with the dormitory dean, Sullivan. They are younger and less mature than you tough old law students. They live and eat in the same house as the dean. Sullivan is not their classroom professor. Besides, everyone is entitled to question and protest a lawyer’s/professor’s politics. Why didn’t you speak up? Because you didn’t want to challenge someone who had power over you? Truth to power.

      • ms100 says

        Good grief. All the elite law schools have been infested with SJWs now. The protest against Brett Kavanaugh by Yale Law students and professors show a distinct disinterest in due process. There is a big difference in protesting in a constructive civil manner vs engaging in mob mentality. Students and faculty are mired in the latter. The ACLU has changed, too, where they are now only supporting leftist causes.

  31. GRPalmer says


    Hillary Clinton the lady who would be POTUS once defended a RAPIST who she KNEW was GUILTY and said so publicly after the trial when the RAPIST was found NOT GULITY.

    Does that make Hillary Clinton a traitor to the “METOO movement, guilty of defending a violent toxic male?

    • Respek Wahmen says

      It probably doesn’t make her a traitor to #metoo, due to linear time.

      And of course there’s nothing wrong with her defense of the rapist, and she should have done whatever possible, within the law, to get him acquitted. The only criticism someone could have was her deriving pleasure from this, apparently gleefully joking about it. But that’s just her nature.

      Imagine someone like Hitler was to be prosecuted, but before trial the case had to be dismissed based on some “technicality.” The integrity of the system would demand that we accept this result.

      But the left increasingly dismiss the concept of truth itself, so why would they understand or appreciate something so outdated or esoteric as integrity or principle?

  32. dkm says

    When institutions that serve as guarantees start to be seen as being suspect for not being on message, we are slipping into fascism. Universities, the law, art and even science are seen as either allies or enemies with no empirical authority or space for freedom. Dark days are ahead of us

  33. the gardner says

    All the above arguments notwithstanding, one has to wonder what Sullivan was thinking when he took this position. Did he believe it would be without controversy in the hallowed Ivy halls he lives in? Is he really surprised by the backlash? Could he be that dumb?

    • Peter from Oz says

      The gardner
      I agree. What further prestige could be gained by taking on such a position? Isn’t being a top lawyer far more impressive than being a teacher of law?

      • Itzik Basman says

        Oz, of course you agree! Who could fail to get swept up by the brilliance of what you agreed to. And your brilliance—“What further prestige” etc.etc.—is easily a match for the gardner’s.

        Well done.

    • Itzik Basman says

      He took the position in 2009. So you’re right of course: he should have foreseen that a decade later he’d encounter this response due largely to hyperventilated changes in the culture rising with in big part with #metoo.

      Well done!

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  35. Pierre Pendre says

    The politics behind the campaign against Sullivan appear to have been dictated by the fear on the Left and among #MeToo activists that Weinstein may be acquitted once the allegations against him have been exposed to forensic examination. The accusers’ stories have been told so far one-sidedly through a sympathetic media. This will not be the case in court and the feminist movement has a lot of credibility riding on Weinstein’s conviction, as does the MSM. The OJ trial which ended in triumph for his defence team of high-powered lawyers casts a long shadow.

    We’re pre-disposed to find Weinstein contemptible but his civil right to be considered innocent until a jury finds otherwise remains intact. He’s also entitled to the benefit of the doubt if the jury has any. We saw the students’ distrust of due process on full view during the Kavanaugh confirmation process when Democrats demanded that Blasey-Ford be believed even if she couldn’t prove her story. Tossing centuries of legal tradition for partisan advantage leads nowhere good. It’s worrying that Harvard law students can’t grasp that.

    Alan Dershowitz, another Harvard Law luminary was on the OJ team but that never affected his standing although the verdict was shocking to many. The Left only turned on him when his legal and academic integrity compelled him to oppose the invented collusion allegations against Trump.

    I gather Sullivan has now left the Weinstein team as well losing his deanship at the instigation of ignorant students and cowardly Harvard adminstrators. That’s an outcome we al have cause to regret.

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  40. GrumpyBear says

    Thinking about this some more…

    The author and most commenters are taking it for granted that this is a case of surrender/capitulation by the Harvard administration.

    Is it?

    Or might they want to punish Sullivan as much as the students do? Other colleges have stood firm against student-led protests of faculty; Harvard could easily do the same.

    Adam Selene mentioned an essay from the 60’s arguing the danger of giving in to the student mob. 50 years later, that mob from the 60’s and 70’s and their descendants are now in charge of our universities.

  41. Margaret Mahon says

    The issue is not about the law, Weinstein, Dershowitz, or you opinions of Harvard as a school and the undergraduate students. It doesn’t involve or have any impact on the Harvard Law School or the Harvard law students.

    The issue concerns the living situation of undergraduates in a dormitory which provides students a home with academic, social, advisory and support services.

    Here’s the definition of the position of ‘faculty dean’ according the Harvard College website:

    Faculty Dean
    Each House has a senior House leader. They make the House a home. The Faculty Deans eat their meals with students in the dining hall, sponsor student-planned events for the house, coordinate the House Tutors, and host gatherings in their private residences. The Faculty Deans’ professional, intellectual, and recreational interests inflect the House’s communal and cultural life, which helps to make each House a distinctive, close-knit community.

    I’m a parent of a Harvard senior who is happy to be living in Lowell House. The faculty deans, were well loved. Diana Eck, a professor in the divinity school, and her partner are retiring. They created a house characterized by afternoon teas which offered home made treats and the deans personally poured the tea from silver teapots to all residents who wanted to join them.

    • Peter from Oz says


      You haven’t really completed your comment.

      The whole point is that no-one should be judged on the people they agree to defend. Anyone who thinks that somehow they can’t talk to Sullivan about any matter because he chose to defend Weinstein is in my opinion wrong and should consider growing up.

    • ms100 says

      @Margaret Mahon

      You’re describing a coddling. No wonder Harvard students are such immature jackasses. And your description reeks of upper class privilege. Do they also learn to raise their pinky when sipping their tea?

  42. Shannon says

    Innocent until proven guilty is a legal standard, not a social standard. Harvard students are not paying regard to the law, but paying regards to campus social dynamics, i.e. this is not about the Dean and his students, but the activists and their audience.
    I am reminded of Jonathon Haidt’s interview with Sam Harris: to understand matters of social dynamics, we should follow the prestige. Here it seems the decision of Harvard is not only craven and short-sighted, but further boost campus SJWs prestige.

  43. Margaret Mahon says

    Dear Peter,

    Everyone has the right to judge a lawyer by who they choose to defend. And that’s not even the point. The point is whether Ronald Sullivan has performed adequately as the leader of Winthrop House to provide a home for the undergraduates who live in the house with him.

    Unfortunately, Sullivan has not made Winthrop a comfortable and welcoming home for its resident undergraduate students. He did not succeeded in fulfilling the mission of the Faculty Dean. It’s not about his performance as the leader of a faculty group or as a law professor. Harvard is correct in removing him from Winthrop House.

    Winthrop House students are between 18 and 22 years old. They don’t need to ‘consider growing up.’ (You’re a bit snarky there.) They will just grow up. Just like you did.

    The opinions and feelings of the students that live in Winthrop House with Sullivan matter a lot. The academic success and well being of the Winthrop house residents matter more than Sullivan’s continued service to the dorm. The dorm is a home for them and not a didactic classroom of the law. A number of students are transferring out of Winthrop house because of Sullivan’s choice of clients and his inability to communicate effectively and forge bonds with these students.

    The students are entitled to a resident faculty leader who can organize a peaceful and supportive dorm without the distraction of his choice of non-Harvard work. There have been dining hall incidents between faculty Sulllivan supporters and student Sullivan protestors where the campus police were called in to take reports of assaults. Faculty have filed and withdrawn suits against a Winthrop student.

    In addition, the Harvard Crimson reported a high turnover of Winthrop house managers — 9 in the 10 years of Sullivan’s leadership. House tutors have reported his verbal abuse and threatened to quit en masse in years past. Harvard has taken perhaps too long to address the situation in Winthrop under Sullivan.

    There are rape and sexual assault survivors who live in Winthrop House. I don’t think they have resolved their feelings; they may never do so. It isn’t reasonable to tell them to ‘consider growing up’ because they don’t feel able to talk ‘about any matter’ with the defender of man on trial for multiple sexual assaults. Consideration for sexual assault survivors is more important than Sullivan’s presence in Winthrop House. It’s also coming to light that Sullivan has defended other accused sexual offenders.

    Sullivan told the court last Friday that he was withdrawing from the defense team. But, on the same day he also announced that he had chosen to advise the team going forward. He will continue to be involved with the defense of Weinstein but can also say truthfully that he withdrew. He’ll be a coach but not player. Harvard’s Dean of College (who is in charge of all 12 houses) dismissed him from Winthrop House on Saturday.

    I believe you have missed the most important point; Sullivan has not successfully made a home for the residents of Winthrop. That is the whole point of being Faculty Dean. It doesn’t matter if Sullivan is legally correct or doing the greatest job defending his clients.

    The undergraduates living with him in Winthrop House and Harvard’s Dean of College (dean of all 12 houses) have the right to judge his services to the house as inadequate. Sullivan has not been able to provide a hospitable and welcoming environment for all the students and that is ‘the whole point.’

    Sullivan should move out of Winthrop.

    • Ma Brule says

      It is you who have missed the point. If the mere act of a lawyer doing their job is now enough to render them “unsafe” and therefore disqualified for any job working with the public (who are, after all, ~50% female) then you have created a powerful disincentive for lawyers to defend unpopular clients. If you have ever with a straight face used the phrase “prison-industrial complex” then on some level you understand that a society where people that we just “know” are guilty do not receive adequate legal defense is a society where many, many innocent people will be locked up.

      Adults should not be encouraged to expect the kind of “safety” that these young adults are demanding, because it is a false sense of safety that comes at the expense of actual legal rights. Nobody who has any direct experience with the legal system wants to be kept “safe” from lawyers who will take their case no matter how heinous the accusations against them are.

  44. Morgan Foster says

    @Margaret Mahon

    “Winthrop House students are between 18 and 22 years old. They don’t need to ‘consider growing up.’ … They will just grow up.”

    I appreciate the thoughtfulness and tone of your post but I must tell you that everything you have written supports my belief that it is the children of Harvard who have failed Ronald Sullivan, not the other way around.

    These children are not emotionally ready to have left home, let alone reap the benefit of study at a major university.

    • ms100 says

      @Morgan Foster

      It’s not just the students, Harvard is greatly at fault, too. Margaret Mahon is advocating for destructive intellectual and emotional coddling. These students, if they are so fragile, need to be in a therapeutic milieu like a residential treatment center instead of a university. You simply cannot have mentally ill students who are irrational among the general population. Harvard houses should be intellectual salons that discuss deep and diverse subjects but that requires the admission of students of diverse opinions and Queensberry rules. Neither is allowed at Harvard.

      Harvard and other elite institutions pride themselves on selecting and educating future leaders. They may be educating future leaders in the mold of the Bolsheviks or the Chinese Communist Party but they are not educating future leaders of a free world. And that is a deliberate feature now, not a bug.

      Here is an example of someone who is often selected to be faculty at the more selective universities. A totally irrational person teaching students. This Twitter quote is from the Brett Kavanaugh debacle.

      “Look at [this] chorus of entitled white men justifying a serial rapist’s arrogated entitlement,” she wrote. “All of them deserve miserable deaths while feminists laugh as they take their last gasps. Bonus: we castrate their corpses and feed them to swine? Yes.”

      We should all support Sir Roger Scruton’s call for abolishing the universities.

  45. The talk about climate is just a smokescreen. Funny how it wasn’t a big issue until he worked (zealously!) for Weinstein. And so universities devolve into social justice Sunday schools.

  46. Rational Number says

    The worst part about this nonsense is that the Americans are exporting it around the western nations.

  47. KP says

    I wonder what Harvard medical students would do if one of their professors saved the life of Harvey Weinstein.

  48. A public defender assigned to a potentially despicable client is a noble act of justice. A wealthy attorney being paid handsomely to defend a rich rapist is a different matter entirely. Harvard is still being ridiculous, but don’t try to portray this guy’s pay day as heroic.

  49. Ullrich Fischer says

    To attack a lawyer for doing his job is simply to attach the rule of law. That’s the bottom line of this shameful episode and it reflects one of the more dire consequences of handing over administration of Universities to ignorant, greedy, corporate managers and treating Universities like just another set of corporations whose one and only success criterion is making money most of which goes to administrators.

  50. wcb0484 says

    What would they say about Atticus Finch?

  51. What we are looking at here is the breakup of social consensus, the rise of ideological narcissism, increasingly shrill rhetoric, shorter emotional fuses, less tolerance of difference, poorer sense of security both outwardly and inwardly, and elevated paranoia about ‘the other’.

    In short, what is in play is the road to war, which is what happens when an ancien regime starts to reach its use-by date and begins to disintegrate into dysfunctional chaos, creating a vacuum that new players and opportunists rush to fill, as al the bets come off, everyone starts playing for keeps for stakes so enormous, no one can afford to lose.

    I would theorize that several generations of indulgent deregulation and privatization of the social and economic system has done so much damage to the infrastructures that actually hold it up, they start to implode/collapse, whether we are talking about social administration, economic governance or management of environment impacts.

    Indulgence Capitalism rose in the 1960s as ordinary needs and wants became insufficient to maintain adequate production growth, and were replaced by fantasy and the removal of all responsible agency obstacles to disinhibited behaviour and and egoistic narcissism. The results were spectacularly successful for production/consumption growth…..and disastrous for the social, economic and ecological infrastructure, as the system voraciously ate resources of any kind, whether cultural or anything else.

    Everything is becoming denuded and vulnerable across all theatres, and like any such period, it brings out the best and worst in our nature, as opportunists, criminals and idealists struggle to reshape a changing world whose traditional underpins can no longer be relied upon.

    The route out of the modern world as we know it will be every bit as bumpy as the road in was when the Reformation kicked off the modern era in the early sixteenth century.

  52. GL says

    Sorry for the delay in respoding–I didn’t see Margaret’s response to my note until now. The reason I–or anyone else–didn’t “speak up” (I assume you mean about Harvard Law professors representing controversial clients) is that it nothing to do with speaking truth to power, etc. It had to do with accepting and recognizing that lawyers represent unpopular clients, just like doctors heal unpopular patients. It’s basic common sense and maturity, which in the past was expected from undergraduates as well as graduate students.

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