i will not be silenced

Danu Mudannayake
Apr 9 · 7 min read

As a defense attorney, Dean Sullivan of Winthrop House can defend whomever he wishes. My concern, which I share with many other students, is that his representation of Weinstein and Fryer is inconsistent with his role in creating a healthy ecology as Faculty Dean of Winthrop House. His activities thus far have acted to intimidate and silence students, tutors, and even Faculty Deans who have sought to voice their concerns about his role, including by branding them as racists. His decision to represent someone who has admittedly paid thousands of dollars to silence women who have filed reports of sexual assault pollutes the environment at Winthrop House, as well as our greater Harvard community.

It is with extreme disappointment, sadness, and a measure of fear that I write today to share with you what occurred the evening of April 3rd 2019 in Winthrop Dining Hall. As a first-generation, low-income, non-white, female student at Harvard College, I never would have imagined that the College Administration would allow Dean Sullivan’s and his Tutors’ methods of intimidation to go so far as harassing students, let alone a student such as myself who is working closely with and for survivors to help them feel safe in their own home. Moreover, the objectionable way in which Dean Sullivan’s tutors have attempted to paint me as the aggressor speaks volumes to the toxic environment fostered by Sullivan in Winthrop house.

On April 3rd 2019, I entered Winthrop dining hall with my best friend to have dinner as both of our houses were closed for special events (Eliot and Adams). We were able to enjoy 20 minutes of regular dinner time chat before, upon getting up to get water, my best friend and I realised Carl Miller was walking into the Dining Hall with his phone blatantly raised in front of him, horizontally recording me. As he approached me, unflinching, I turned to see his phone screen and noticed that it was on camera mode. Frazzled, I turned to my friend and we walked back to our table. I immediately started to email Dean Khurana, with whom I have reported many an incident regarding Sullivan since mid-February.

During this time, Carl Miller proceeded to get up again and appeared to take another photograph of me from the table at which he was sitting with his three month old child and wife. Dean Sullivan then appeared in the dining hall, marking the first time I had ever seen him in person. Sullivan made his rounds around the dining hall, fumbling with a trophy case situated towards the back of the dining hall, before walking right past my table back to Carl Miller and his family.

Agitated, and concerned that Khurana would not be able to do anything to address the real-time breach of my personal safety, I decided to put my mind at ease by simply asking Carl Miller if he had or had not been recording me. My best friend and I got up and walked over to him as he left his family to return his tray, specifically because we did not want to intrude on his family’s meal. I repeatedly asked “Excuse me?”. After asking six times, to which Miller did not even turn around, I proceeded to state: “I have reason to believe you might have been videotaping me or taking my photograph. I don’t appreciate it if it is true and would like to know why, if you did, you chose to do that.” Miller incredulously called out “Does anyone know who this is?” and started to walk towards Winthrop dining hall exit.

His wife, for reasons unknown to me, joined him as he exited, at which point I was still asking why he might have been videotaping me. Coldly jolting past me, I was left feeling invisible by Carl Miller, and as he exited I told him that he should find better ways to spend his time such as taking care of his family rather than harassing students in College dining halls.

Upon returning to my best friend who was still in the main area of Winthrop Dining Hall, I found her in conversation with Dean Sullivan. Sullivan asked me for my name, and I explained to him that Eliot dining hall was closed for a special event so my friend and I had come to Winthrop dining hall instead. I proceeded to tell him that I believed Carl Miller seemed to be videotaping and photographing me, to which he then pulled out his phone, checked it, and said Carl was texting him saying he had not taken photos or videos of me. I asked Dean Sullivan why Carl Miller could not have told me that when I asked him over and over again before he left the Dining Hall. Sullivan said ‘Winthrop welcomes all’ and made a point of giving me his business card, shaking my hand, and asking for my name a second time. I found myself wondering why he didn’t know who I was since I have been publicly and actively seeking his removal from the house.

At this point, Dean Sullivan left the dining hall, and my friend and I finished dinner before also leaving.

I was was born and raised in Ilford, a suburb of North-East London situated well away from the bright lights of Central London. In the past, I have always found a quiet safeness simply from being on a campus as privileged as Harvard, and located in the abundantly wealthy city of Cambridge. This semester, after becoming more involved in advocating for survivors of sexual assault and rape, I have never felt more unsafe on campus. Since speaking out on this issue, I have experienced various forms of harassment and intimidation both on campus and online. I have reason to believe Dean Sullivan employed a Senior in Lowell House to intimidate me on February 26th, who met with me to tell me I was being expelled, and barred from graduate school, which Dean Khurana after several panicked hours informed me was a complete lie.

Dean Sullivan has repeatedly attacked my reputation in emails that insinuate I created ‘racially offensive’ cartoons and that I partook in criminal vandalism. I am a skilled illustrator and have illustrated for the Harvard Crimson since Spring 2017, serving as a Comp Director for the Crimson’s Illustration comp where I trained illustrators in avoiding plagiarism, and avoiding racially charged illustrations, as well as anti-semitic, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, and many other forms of derogatory cartoons. Of course, I would urge you to view the cartoon and the reference picture for yourself here and make up your own mind.

The illustration and flyer I created and distributed in the early hours of 25th February 2019
The reference image used for my illustration, found at https://www.google.com/search?biw=1422&bih=695&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=acasXMP5Mquk_Qa_v5CABw&q=ron+sullivan+jr+the+editorial&oq=ron+sullivan+jr+the+editorial&gs_l=img.3...12450.13479..13645...0.0..0.60.442.8......1....1..gws-wiz-img.LKOeIpaZIRg#imgrc=w7y8GV05K4gIFM:

The night that myself and 4 other students distributed fliers in Winthrop House, Dean Sullivan’s Senior Tutor, Carl Miller, proceeded to follow me around the entirety of Winthrop despite the fact that I was well within my rights of free speech to distribute my fliers. As detailed above, my trying to enjoy a meal at Winthrop dining hall simply because my own house was closed for Faculty Dinner has led to further slander and intimidation by Winthrop staff. Preempting a HUPD investigation, Winthrop tutors Carl and Valencia Miller have labelled me as a student who from the outset came into Winthrop to harass him and his family, and in correspondence Valencia distributed to the tutors of Winthrop House she wrote “But now, Danu has systematically robbed me and my family of [the] luxury [of feeling safe]. I am reminded of the 4 little girls who where [sic] killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Church in 1963. Their parents also thought that the church was one place they were safe.” This statement effectively likens me to terrorists, which is not only inaccurate but particularly offensive to me, as a survivor of the London Bridge Terrorist Attacks of June 2017.

What strikes me as objectionable is the power imbalance here. I, a 21 year-old college undergraduate being targeted by tutors who are much older than me and a Dean who is one of the foremost defense lawyers in the country. As a brown international woman at Harvard I believe that the narrative put forth by Dean Sullivan and the Millers, accusing any and all critics of being racially motivated, is a detriment to those who are truly suffering from racially motivated attacks. As the Association of Black Harvard Women powerfully expressed in their February 21st statement calling for Sullivan’s removal, the #MeToo movement was founded by Tarana Burke to address black girls’ too-common experiences of sexual violence, and Harvey Weinstein used his position of power to assault many women of color. I continue to stand in solidarity with the women of ABHW as they call for the support of black women on this campus.

All I can say is, especially to those of you who know me personally, I would never harass anyone. I have made a point of conducting myself in as professional a manner as possible thus far, and have been in close contact with Dean Khurana, my Faculty Deans, my Resident Dean, and tutors. I also have witnesses to the various methods of intimidation that Dean Sullivan and his tutors have used against me, as well as against other individuals in his house.

Valencia Miller wrote, to the tutors of Winthrop House, about how her luxury was robbed. I urge you to consider how the luxury of students such as myself, and survivors in Winthrop and across this campus, has been robbed. Do we not deserve to live on this campus and feel safe? Do we not deserve to have Faculty Deans and Tutors who make students feel welcome and supported? As of right now, I firmly believe Harvard thinks not.

Danu Mudannayake, 21 years old, Visual and Environmental Studies: Film Production, Harvard College