Ronald Sullivan Is Guilty By Association
The phrase ‘there’s no smoke without fire’ is normally seen as a deliberate subjugation of the legal system. It undermines the concept of a person being innocent until proven guilty and so gives hearsay a higher status than evidence-based proof. There are some scenarios though where the ‘smoke with fire’ concept can actually be an important part of the quest for justice.
Take the Harvey Weinstein scandal for example, were it not for a series of women stepping forward to level accusations against the Hollywood mogul then it is very likely that he would still be in a position of power and not facing a criminal investigation (the same principle holds true for the Mueller investigation into Donald Trump).
Guilt by association is another concept that is seen as unfair in principle, but can be a useful rule of thumb to attribute blame in the absence of due process. It is this guiding principle that prompted a movement to remove Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. from his post as faculty dean at Harvard Law School. Sullivan has made the decision to join Harvey Weinstein’s defence team, associating himself with one of the most allegedly deplorable sexual predators of the century.
This announcement has been read by Harvard students as a tacit endorsement of Weinstein’s acts and they are understandably questioning what implications this has for their safety on campus. The wording of the petition is unambiguous in defending Sullivan’s rights to engage Weinstein as a client, but questions if this decision is compatible with his status and responsibility:
‘For victims of sexual assault and rape on this campus who already feel disempowered by the sheer lack of activity in reprimanding such behaviour, the developments of Dean Sullivan's professional work are not only upsetting, but deeply trauma-inducing.’
Doubly disappointing is Sullivan’s status as the first African American faculty dean at Barkley. In an era of BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo, having black and other minority leaders in positions of power is vital for fighting the alt-right and the rising tide of white supremacy. To lose Sullivan to such a obnoxious cause seems like a waste.
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