Embattled Harvard law professor leaves Harvey Weinstein’s legal defense team

An embattled Harvard University law professor under fire on campus for representing Harvey Weinstein said Monday that he has left the Hollywood media mogul’s legal defense team.

Ronald Sullivan Jr. said the rescheduling of Weinstein’s sexual assault trial created an “unresolvable conflict” with his teaching obligations at Harvard. He said the court approved his request to withdraw from representing Weinstein at the trial, scheduled to begin in New York on Sept. 9.

His departure comes just two days after Harvard – amid an uproar that began in January  – announced plans to let go of Sullivan and his wife Stephanie Robinson as faculty deans at the school’s Winthrop House.

For months, a group of Harvard students had protested Sullivan’s professional decision to work for Weinstein’s legal defense while at the same time serving as a faculty dean at one of Harvard’s 12 houses where students live. In his prominent position at the Winthrop House, Sullivan provides guidance, advice and mentoring for students who reside there.

“My decision to represent Mr. Weinstein sparked considerable discussion and activism around issues of sexual violence, the appropriate role and responsibilities of Harvard and its faculty in addressing those issues, and the tension between protecting the rights of those criminally accused and validating the experience of those who are survivors of sexual violence,” Sullivan said in a statement.

“My representation of those accused of sexual assault does not speak to my personal views on any of these matters. I will remain available to Mr. Weinstein’s trial team for advice and consultation.”

Sullivan and Robinson were the first African-Americans to be appointed faculty deans at Harvard. The university has said they will not renew their terms when they expire next month.

In addition to the campus backlash for representing Weinstein, Sullivan and Robinson had seen their leadership questioned.

The Harvard Crimson reported last week that more than a dozen Winthrop tutors, students and staff have brought concerns about Sullivan and Robinson to Harvard administrators over the past three years. The complaints have involved questions about their leadership, a “revolving door” of staff administrators at the house, and “threats” to push out residents deemed as disloyal by Sullivan and Robinson.

More: Harvard dean’s legal defense of Harvey Weinstein sparks controversy on campus

Weinstein, whose alleged activity helped accelerate the #MeToo movement, has been charged with multiple sex crimes.

In February, Rekesh Khurana, dean of Harvard, pointed to the “academic freedom” of faculty members to make professional decisions when asked about Sullivans work with Weinstein. He also defended the right of every individual to have a vigorous defense.

But in an email Saturday announcing the school’s decision to not continue Sullivan in the role of faculty dean, he said the situation at the Winthrop House had become “untenable.”

“Over the last few weeks, students and staff have continued to communicate concerns about the climate in the Winthrop House to the college,” Khurana said in the email. “The concerns expressed have been serious and numerous.

“The actions that have been taken to improve the climate have been ineffective, and the noticeable lack of faculty dean presence during critical moments has further deteriorated the climate in the house. I have concluded that the situation in the house is untenable.”