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Harvard Should Tread Cautiously With Kavanaugh

Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh speaking at Harvard Law School's bicentennial celebration in Oct. 2017.
Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh speaking at Harvard Law School's bicentennial celebration in Oct. 2017. By Courtesy of Martha Stewart
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

On Sept. 13, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, referred an anonymous letter to the FBI detailing an allegation of attempted rape by Supreme Court Nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh. At least two more sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh have subsequently emerged, throwing into doubt Kavanaugh’s previously assured confirmation. However, the open Supreme Court seat was not the only position Kavanaugh was slated to soon fill. Kavanaugh was also granted a lecturing position at Harvard Law School for the winter of 2019. In light of the accusations against Kavanaugh, we believe that the University should conduct an investigation into his actions and background and, if it finds that he was likely culpable of misconduct, strip him of his position as a lecturer.

To be clear, we find the allegations brought against Kavanaugh are serious, credible, and worthy of full investigation. As we have opined in the past, elite institutions — Yale and Harvard among them — have long enabled abusers to access the highest corridors of power. Kavanaugh’s glittering academic history at Yale — and now his appointment as a visiting lecturer at Harvard Law — does not make him beyond reproach for the crimes of which he is accused. Harvard should seriously consider the allegations against Kavanaugh, and be prepared to terminate his position if it finds them credible.

This is not how Harvard has always acted. Our university has a history of privileging powerful men over the voices of victims. Jorge I. Dominguez, who retired from the Government Department last year amid sexual misconduct allegations, has not been fired and is still professor emeritus of the University. Even more troubling, Harvard had known about his record of sexual transgressions going back more than 30 years.

We believe that in addressing Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual violence, Harvard has a chance to at least partially make amends for its own complicity in supporting powerful men and silencing those that they are accused of harming. Kavanaugh’s alleged misconduct may be a national story, but it is one eerily reminiscent of our own campus culture.

We are tired of giving powerful men the benefit of the doubt. We are tired of their victims being treated as mere collateral damage — a footnote on an otherwise illustrious career path. There is no resume so spotless that it compensates for the moral depravity of sexual assault. Men like Kavanaugh have been embraced by the dominant political and cultural institutions of our country, and in maintaining its support for him, the White House now stands behind a man accused by at least two women of sexual misconduct.

We ask that Kavanaugh’s upcoming appointment as a law school lecturer be suspended pending a review of the serious allegations against him. For better or for worse, decisions made at Harvard fall under the national spotlight. Let us be a voice for survivors, not perpetrators. If the University has reason to believe that Kavanaugh was culpable of sexual assault, we believe that accepting him onto our campus would be an insult to survivors within our own community. Harvard must clearly demonstrate that it prioritizes their needs, believes their experiences, and will fight for their safety.

This staff editorial is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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