The failure of Western universities to stand up for free speech is now so commonplace it’s difficult to feel much outrage when another dissenting professor is tossed to the wolves. But on this occasion the university in question is so distinguished we really ought to sit up and take note. And for once, I don’t mean Cambridge. The vice-chancellor of Cambridge has done so much to destroy its global reputation in the last few months – what with the defenestration of Jordan Peterson and Noah Carl, and the decision to investigate the university’s links with the slave trade – that he has allowed himself a few days off. No, the university that has disgraced itself this week is Harvard. That’s right, Harvard, which has topped the Times Higher Education supplement’s World Reputation Rankings since 2011.
The story begins last January when the African-American Law School Professor Ronald Sullivan joined Harvey Weinstein’s defence team. Now, it isn’t unusual for Professor Sullivan to represent unpopular clients. In the past, he has represented Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots player accused of a double murder, and the family of Usaamah Rahim, a man accused of being a terrorist who was shot by the Boston Police. But his decision to represent the man at the centre of the #MeToo scandal proved too much for some radical students, who began organising protests in Harvard Square. The chant heard most often at these rallies is ‘Believe Survivors’, the same phrase that activists used when campaigning against Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court. The implication is that the presumption of innocence should not be extended to men accused of rape or sexual assault. (To read more, click here.)