Harvard descends to new lows in the war on academic freedom

It’s a fundamental of our system of justice that anyone accused of a crime, however vile, deserves a fair trial and the right to a defence. This applies to everyone: murderers, rapists, terrorists, racists, paedophiles – and even Harvey Weinstein. Defence lawyers who take on these unpalatable cases are understood to be fulfilling an essential role in the justice system, not to be personally supporting murder or terrorism.

The students and authorities at Harvard University clearly think otherwise. This weekend, after prolonged student protest (including vandalism and other disruptions), Harvard removed Ronald Sullivan, a prominent academic and defence lawyer, as a faculty dean due to joining, in a professional capacity, Harvey Weinstein’s legal team.

Sullivan is, as it happens, Harvard’s first ever black faculty dean. He is one of the US’s most distinguished defence lawyers who has specialised in taking on difficult cases. He has defended accused murderers and terrorists. He successfully represented the family of Michael Brown, the innocent black man wrongly gunned down by the police in the Ferguson affair. He is a man who Harvard – or any university – should be proud to have in a position of authority, and his actions in this matter appear entirely consistent with upholding the principles of our legal justice system, rather than any personal support for the accused.

To the woke, none of this matters. This case combines an attack on the principal of a fair trial with an assault on academic freedom. It is disturbing that Harvard students, likely to be amongst the future leaders of society, have acted in this way. It is even worse that the leadership of Harvard have acquiesced.