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.