Due Process

Fired Harvard Dean Ronald Sullivan: 'Unchecked Emotion Has Replaced Thoughtful Reasoning on Campus'

The celebrated law professor lost his position as faculty dean after students demanded his firing.

|

Harvard University law professor Ronald Sullivan lost his position as faculty dean of Winthrop House after student-activists complained that his decision to represent Harvey Weinstein made campus an unsafe place for women. It did not matter to them that Sullivan had previously represented scores of controversial clients—including accused murderers and terrorists—and worked tirelessly to advocate for criminal justice reform.

Now Sullivan has penned an op-ed for The New York Times that criticizes the students for letting their feelings override reason, and the administration for bowing to their demands. He writes:

I am willing to believe that some students felt unsafe. But feelings alone should not drive university policy. Administrators must help students distinguish between feelings that have a rational basis and those that do not. In my case, Harvard missed an opportunity to help students do that.

I wish I could say that Harvard's response in these matters is unique in higher education. Unfortunately, many universities have failed in this regard of late.

Unchecked emotion has replaced thoughtful reasoning on campus. Feelings are no longer subjected to evidence, analysis or empirical defense. Angry demands, rather than rigorous arguments, now appear to guide university policy.

This must change. Until then, universities are doing a profound disservice to those who place their trust in us to educate them.

The op-ed is worth reading in its entirety.

Regrettably, Sullivan is exactly right: Too many elite institutions of higher education have given credence to the demands of a small number of activist students. As a result, campuses have become less friendly to free expression and due process in recent years. For more about why and how this trend took shape, order my brand new book, Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump.

NEXT: Detroit Police Arrested a City-Commissioned Artist Because He Didn't Have a Permit

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

    1. Perhaps somewhat charitably, Robby forgot to quote another statement from Sullivan’s article, namely that “universities are supposed to be places… where people are forced to wrestle with difficult, controversial and unfamiliar ideas.” Anyone who would make such an inappropriate statement would certainly not qualified to serve as a dean here at NYU. Here, we focus our skills not on “controversy,” but on silencing inappropriate speech. As was argued by the prosecutor in our nation’s leading criminal “satire” case, which we were instrumental in bringing about, someone who “knows how to use words to stir up controversy” is best regarded as a threat to society. Sullivan should heed that argument carefully before attempting to create up any more dissent with his complaints. See the documentation of our nation’s leading criminal “parody” case at:

      https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

      1. And why shouldn’t the power of government find a workaround for the First Amendment to protect the sensitivities of ladies who, upon overhearing a rogue’s uncouth words, swoon like an antebellum belle with a case of the vapors?

        1. Btw thanks George Will for that wonderful phrasing.

    2. Seems this would pit the privileged white feminists against the BLM supporters…where are the calls of racism against these black professors???

  1. It is better to refuse to hire Ivy League graduates. Let them wallow in their safe space.

    1. The problem is that the wallow will continue to expand, unless physically constrained. Plenty of evidence from the Democratic candidate clown car, with competing proposals to make all society “safe”.

    2. Let’s get something straight. Nobody whines more about their triggers than conservatives. They are just too stupid to use the latest jargon.

      1. By latest jargon Tony means shit that was made up and echoed by the correct people.

      2. lol ok

      3. “Nobody whines more about their triggers than conservatives. They are just too stupid to use the latest jargon.”

        What Tony resorts to when he has nothing to say on a particular subject [as in the article at hand]. Along the lines of “Trump, what about Trump, huh? Well maybe they’re bad but [your] Trump is worse, so there!”

        Grow the fuck up already.

        1. Are we talking about whining or not? Who whines more than Trump? The most powerful man on earth and everything is the Democrats this, the media that. It’s like page 2 of the conservative playbook, first edition, never updated. Page 1 of course is racism.

          1. If basically the entire media, almost all institutions in the government, and half+ of the ones in the private sector were constantly lying about you and going after you like you were LITERALLY HITLER… You might bitch about it once in awhile too.

            1. Maybe he should examine his own behavior to see why everyone who’s not a beer-chugging redneck hates him so much.

              1. I’m not a beer chugging redneck, and I think he’s alright. He’s not my hero (here’s lookin’ at you Ron Paul!), but he’s better than any other recent presidents.

                I make 6 figures and live in a trendy coastal city. I’m even part Mexican! Apparently I’m not supposed to exist.

              2. Tony demonstrates his COMPLETE lack of self-awareness here.

      4. Nobody whines more about their triggers than conservatives.

        You got that right. I try to spend some time each day bitching about gun control, and how useless and stupid it is.

      5. You’re the dumbest bulb on the planet, you inbred Okie faggot.

        1. You and Shitlords should get together and barbecue some varmints or whatever it is you people do.

      6. Now you understand why ‘to be sure’ is a bad tactic Robby?

        Look at what it does to Tony.

    3. I’ll never hire or recommend one ever again. Heck, even proximity to an Ivy League school is a strike in my book.

    4. Don’t hire grads, don’t send your children to these indoctrination camps and whatever you do, don’t send them money.

  2. Feelings are no longer subjected to evidence, analysis or empirical defense.

    This isn’t really a problem.

    Angry demands, rather than rigorous arguments, now appear to guide university policy.

    This is the problem.

    1. angry demands guide everyone age 2-and-up now

  3. Get used to it Robby, your coworkers love this Marxist shit

    Enjoy the Cathedral

  4. Hey Robby, you remembered the link when you were shilling you shitty book, but forgot to link to the actual op-ed you said we should read? What the fuck? Is Reason just a marketing platform now? If you take out the quote there’s basically a brief mention of the op-ed, and a useless pitch from a trash-worthy book.

    For those interested, the Ronald Sullivan op-ed Robby said we should read is available at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/24/opinion/harvard-ronald-sullivan.html.

    1. Can I take it you won’t be ordering the signed copy?

      (But the link should be the point of the story)

      1. Too many cocktail stains on the signed copies.

    2. I can’t even: I’m thanking Nihil for caring enough to provide the link missed by Robby.

    3. Thanks! I was thinking the exact same thing. How can you link your book and “forget” to link the article you even said we should read in its entirety.

  5. The celebrated law professor lost his position as faculty dean after students demanded his firing.

    I’m sure Prof. Robinson is a very fine man and talented scholar, but “celebrated”? Alan Dershowitz is a celebrated law professor. Ronald Sullivan is (just) a law professor.

    1. Robinson, Sullivan. Whatevah.

      1. I was in agreement about the “celebrated” Prof. Robinson, but casting shade on THE Prof. Sullivan? Back off man.

        1. Jesus loves him more than he will know, whoa whoa whoa.

  6. “As a result, campuses have become less friendly to free expression and due process in recent years.”

    Feature not bug, as they say. As with the Oberlin debacle, it is college administrators who want to bring about this result and do what to can to inflame the emotion over reason toward that end.

    And don’t even get me started on Title IX.

  7. In the fragility Olympics, the first person to crumble into an embarrassing mess of tears over wins.

    A Chick-fil-a opened within driving distance of me! It’s worse than the Holocaust!

    1. We agree on a topic! The wonder!

      1. He’ll do that from time to time; I’ve seen it called “reasonable Tony,” as when a savant who spends most of their time drooling insensibly sits down at a piano and plays something by Liszt; which convinces me he is a troll who just has a knack for annoying people, most of the time.

    2. They make a good chicken sandwich, but I’m just not into chicken sandwiches. I’m rather surprised California even allowed one to open, and less than a mile away from a Hobby Lobby. Gavin Newsome is definitely asleep at the wheel.

      1. CFA is a concentration camp that just happens to serve tasty sandwiches and playscapes. But definitely concentration camp.

  8. Well, I am NOT willing to believe that any students actually felt unsafe. It flies in the face of logic and physics

    1. 3 out of 4 women are assaulted on campus every year, how can they feel safe?

      1. Actual 4 out of 3.

        1. Reminds me of how I like to joke that the National Weather Service has predicted 14 of the last 3 significant snowfalls to hit Atlanta.

    2. Yes, I think Sullivan was being way overly generous when he stated that. No one feels “unsafe,” but they’ve learned to trade on self proclaimed victim status in order to exert a modicum of power. In this and other cases it works for them, so you can certainly expect to keep using it if only to get a specious “win.”

  9. The West’s “social firing squads” are running ’round the clock. Get used to it.

    1. You forgot the word “circular”. It’s enjoyable watching them kill those on their own side. A perverted form of friendly fire?

  10. “I am willing to believe that some students felt unsafe.”

    And I’m willing to believe those who do are fucking ignoramuses, to be ignored at best or mocked.

    1. And have no business being in a place of higher education.

      Whatever that means at an Ivy League anymore.

  11. I mean, he wasn’t actually fired, right? The Faculty Dean is basically just a faculty advisor for student housing, and Harvard decided that, once the term expires on June 30, he will no longer continue in that position.

    I do think that’s framing this inaccurately. When you started the headline with “fired,” it made me believer there was a new development where he’d lost his position on the faculty, which would have been very disturbing.

    1. And in fairness to Robbie, he probably didn’t write the headline, but whatever web editor or web assistant editor did, I hope someone discusses with them why it’s bad to craft misleading headlines.

      1. Or why its good to craft misleading headlines. For the clicks of course.

    2. losing your job is the common definition of “fired”, so it’s accurate. It’s just not his primary job.

      1. I just think it’s a bit misleading because, as I said, my initial reaction was to think there was a development in this story that I had missed.

        And it’s not really his “job,” it’s a tertiary duty he was performing related to his job. His job with the university is that he’s a professor of law, and one of the duties he performed related to that job was to serve as the faculty dean of Winthrop House.

        It’s like you’re working on a project at work, and your boss is unhappy with your work on the project so he takes you off that task and gives it to someone else. Maybe working on that project was giving you some extra income, but being reassigned off of it is not equivalent to being fired.

    3. Not having to counsel that bunch may be a relief.

  12. Too many elite institutions of higher education have given credence to the demands of a small number of activist students

    And who would those activist students be? Robby never says. I guess they are just from every political persuasion.

    They are leftists. And God forbid Soave ever tell the full truth about anything.

    1. And who would those activist students be? Robby never says. I guess they are just from every political persuasion.

      Assuming it’s the students is being exceedingly generous. Between the riots at Berkeley and Oberlin, as well as a couple of other less overt incidents, it’s clear that at least some University-affiliated political actors aren’t afraid of whipping the student body into a froth to aid in or act as cover for enacting their own political agenda.

      1. Just useless idiots being useful to the cause. Invariably there are college bureaucrats pushing these.

        1. Leftists.

  13. …order my brand new book, Panic Attack: Young Radicals How to Change a Tire Without Mussing Your Hair in the Age of Trump.

    I like my title better.

    1. Millennials can’t change tires.

      1. Gender is the new tire.

      2. Hey man, I’m an older millennial, and I can change a tire! I’ve done it quite a few times actually. Every time I wish I had bought a better jack than the shitty one that came with the car from the factory…

        1. Me too!
          Though I did have to help a friend a couple years younger than me change his…

          1. Honestly, I think the stereotypical millennial behavior really started a couple years after me. Because DAMN, a lot of people that are 3-5 years younger than me seem to fit ALL the stereotypes, and most in my age range don’t.

      3. I’m a millennial and I literally changed a tire after I got a flat on the road this year. Fuck off.

  14. OMG, the Rev must be apoplectic, a progressive black Harvard professor has become, by magic clinger dust, a disaffected rural white dude.

    1. The Rev…figures the cowardly asshole of dictatorial gall bladders would be hiding out on this one.

  15. >> Unchecked Emotion Has Replaced Thoughtful Reasoning on Campus

    Well duh! Where have you been?

  16. Unchecked Emotion Has Replaced Thoughtful Reasoning on Campus

    And the brainless activists would not only freely admit that, but celebrate it.

    1. Thoughtful reasoning is a tool of the patriarchy!

      1. You might think you’re joking, but I’ve heard student radicals say exactly that.

  17. This is sort of like Himmler complaining about his work environment….

    1. …if Himmler were Jewish.

  18. Administrators must help students distinguish between feelings that have a rational basis and those that do not

    I think it’s more than that. Someone (maybe not administrators, but parents, mentors, role models, and peers at the very least) need to help students distinguish between feelings rooted in in sound morals and those that aren’t.

    I think it’s pretty easy to support the principle of a presumption of innocence and access to legal counsel with rational, reason-based arguments, but there is also an undeniable philosophical and/or moral foundation to those principles. An argument based on feelings shouldn’t be automatically dismissed, but the feelings motivating these students are horribly pernicious, and someone needs to call them out on that, too.

    (Maybe he did – I haven’t read the op-ed yet)

  19. “Administrators must help students distinguish between feelings that have a rational basis and those that do not.”

    Sounds too much like work. How about just follow the path of least resistance and wait for retirement?

    1. “Administrators must help students distinguish between feelings that have a rational basis and those that do not.”

      That would require eliminating entire departments at Harvard.

  20. Another money quote:

    “It is a dereliction of duty for administrators to allow themselves to be bullied into unprincipled positions.”

    Nowadays, that sounds more like a job description than a dereliction of duty.

  21. Oh, and let me just add this thought:

    If Socrates today went around exposing the fallacies of students’ belief systems, it would be the students, not the elders, who would demand Socrates’ prosecution.

  22. I am not willing to believe that any students felt unsafe because Harvey Weinstein hired a lawyer, and that lawyer worked at Harvard. The protest is about seeing how much power the mob has to enforce conformity of thought, even to the point of tearing down centuries of legal tradition and hard-won freedom of expression. If you know you don’t have a majority to overturn laws and rights and traditions most people find acceptable (even important or precious), you try to make more noise and hold your breath until you turn blue, like a child throwing a tantrum.

  23. “Unchecked emotion has replaced thoughtful reasoning on campus. Feelings are no longer subjected to evidence, analysis or empirical defense. Angry demands, rather than rigorous arguments, now appear to guide university policy.”

    Well, no shit Sherlock.
    That’s been going on for decades.
    Where have you been?

    1. He’s been quietly watching other people’s oxen being gored.

    2. Can we trust on these stories. really.

    3. “Unchecked emotion has replaced thoughtful reasoning on campus.”

      Passive voiced bullshit. Emotion has always been there, just as it is everywhere. But previously the leadership of these institutions sought to impose thoughtful reasoning and actively discouraged unchecked emotion.

      But then they ran out of new ideas, and the ideas they had were found wanting. So emotion it is!

      None of which is happenstance.

  24. OK, I will take his complaint seriously if there is any record of him making it before it affected him personally. This whole demonization-culture has been going on for quite a few years, has he remained silent?

    1. Yup. It’s just like that one case of some dumb business in Oregon… They had SUPPORTED the same kind of shit against some other business just a couple years ago, BUT ALL OF A SUDDEN when the mob came for them they bitched. I say GOOD. Let these fucks get taken down by their own creation.

  25. […] bigot who hates poor people. After all, as Harvard law professor Ronald Sullivan said, after he was fired as a university dean for having taken Harvey Weinstein on as a client, “Unchecked emotion has replaced thoughtful […]

  26. […] bigot who hates poor people. After all, as Harvard law professor Ronald Sullivan said, after he was fired as a university dean for having taken Harvey Weinstein on as a client, “Unchecked emotion has replaced thoughtful […]

  27. […] bigot who hates poor people. After all, as Harvard law professor Ronald Sullivan said, after he was fired as a university dean for having taken Harvey Weinstein on as a client, “Unchecked emotion has replaced thoughtful […]

  28. […] bigot who hates poor people. After all, as Harvard law professor Ronald Sullivan said, after he was fired as a university dean for having taken Harvey Weinstein on as a client, “Unchecked emotion has replaced thoughtful […]

  29. Gee, really Sullivan? Hadn’t noticed. Hope he isn’t a professor who contributed to it over the years.

    This is all 100% the result of progressivism driven by critical theory infiltrating the blood stream.

    Call conservatives ‘whiners’ for pointing out the gross and appalling behaviour by the left on campuses all you want but in the end, they’re the source of the lunacy.

    Conservative speakers and groups get routinely uninvited or censored. Not the other way around. Conservatives get sucker punched and hit by bike locks. Not the other way around.

    None of this is surprising because a) it’s obvious and documented and b) the vast majority of faculty vote Democrat (and here Liberal).

    That’s why I loathe the notion of ‘conservatives do it too’. The overall culture of ‘safe spacing’ suppression of speech is set by a majority of leftists who create an unhealthy atmosphere of SJW animosity and suspicion. Conservatives are usually a small minority who have to carefully walk around egg shells in such an environment.

    The minute they express concern, they’re called ‘snowflakes’. It’s patently absurd.

    1. It’s all nothing more than the academic version of one man, one vote, one time.

      the tenets of paleo liberalism demanded that the extremists expressly opposed to liberalism be granted a voice. Once they became the dominant voice it was inevitable that they would seek to suppress all other voices.

  30. All these leftists shit bags have created monsters that are coming back to bite them in the ass. Good. Maybe if their circular firing squad gets intense enough these assholes will realize the error of their ways and start returning to sanity.

    1. Or all the leftist shitbags kill each other off and leave the rest of us in peace. They may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.

  31. Amazing how many uneducated, backward, superstittious bitter clingers run college campi.

Please to post comments