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UC Passes Statement Supporting Danu Mudannayake

Sruthi Palaniappan '20 and Julia M. Huesa '20 lead an Undergraduate Council meeting in March.
Sruthi Palaniappan '20 and Julia M. Huesa '20 lead an Undergraduate Council meeting in March. By Amanda Y. Su
By Kevin R. Chen and Laura C. Espinoza, Crimson Staff Writers

The Undergraduate Council issued a statement Thursday supporting Danu A. K. Mudannayake ’20, an activist who was involved in a confrontation with a Winthrop House tutor last month.

The statement, which passed by an online vote late Wednesday night 20-9, denounced the tutor’s response to the incident and issued a number of demands, including a public response from College administrators and the dissemination of the results of the College’s climate review of Winthrop.

Mudannayake, who is also a Crimson design editor, and Winthrop tutor Carl L. Miller filed conflicting reports with Harvard University Police after a conflict in the Winthrop dining hall on Apr. 3. Mudannayake said she approached Miller after she believed he had taken photos and videos of her; Miller said Mudannayake harassed and provoked him and his family while they ate dinner.

Days later, Miller’s lawyer George J. Leontire sent an email to Harvard administrators revealing that Miller planned to file a Title IX complaint about the incident. Leontire later said Miller no longer planned to file a Title IX complaint.

“[T]hreatening to file a Title IX complaint against a student for voicing concerns is an unprofessional abuse of power,” the UC’s statement reads. “We therefore condemn all blatant acts of bullying and intimidation enacted upon undergraduate students, especially by House staff.”

Miller did not respond to a request for comment.

The April confrontation between Mudannayake and Miller came amidst growing tensions on campus over Winthrop Faculty Dean Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr.’s decision to represent film producer Harvey Weinstein, who faces multiple allegations of sexual assault — a tension the council’s statement references. Mudannayake herself has recently made headlines for her activism in calling on Sullivan to step down from his faculty dean position due to his decision to represent Weinstein.

“This altercation comes after much controversy surrounding Dean Sullivan’s decision to represent Harvey Weinstein,” the statement reads. “At a time when survivors may feel particularly voiceless, the Winthrop House administration should be committing its significant influence to ensuring that survivors are supported in their academic and residential lives.”

Sullivan did not respond to a request for comment.

The statement calls the College to take many “immediate” actions, including additional research into how the climate in Winthrop compares to those of other houses, greater protections for student activists, and a public response from College administrators.

College spokesperson Aaron M. Goldman wrote in an emailed statement that the College is working to gather more information regarding the Winthrop situation.

“The College is committed to ensuring that our students receive the best possible support in their residential communities,” Goldman wrote. “As Dean Khurana stated in his recent e-mail to students, we are working with the Office of Institutional Research to gather additional information from the Winthrop community. This information will provide both a clearer picture of what is happening in the House and will inform decisions on how best to address concerns that have been identified.”

Eliot House representatives Max A. Gillmer ’21, Sean Sullivan ’20, and Jakob L. Gilbert ’21 co-sponsored the statement along with Mather House Representative Sanika S. Mahajan ’21. While UC Vice President Julia M. Huesa ’20 was originally also a co-sponsor of the statement, she was unable to act as a co-sponsor after the UC ruled the president and vice president can no longer vote or sponsor legislation at its meeting Sunday.

The sponsors had attempted to pass the statement through the Council multiple times before it finally passed on Wednesday. The UC first failed to pass the statement at its Apr. 14 general meeting. When the representatives presented the legislation as new business at the Council’s next meeting on Apr. 21, representatives voted not to reconsider the statement.

The sponsors presented the statement for a third time at its meeting last Sunday, but the UC did not have enough time to reconsider the statement. Though the Council disallowed online voting earlier this semester, representatives voted to suspend regular rules and procedures at its meeting Sunday to allow representatives to vote online through Wednesday.

Representatives did not debate the legislation at their Sunday meeting. When the sponsors originally proposed the statement at the Apr. 14 meeting, some representatives said they refused to support the statement before hearing Miller’s perspectives on the issue. Other representatives countered that Miller has already expressed his side of the story through The Crimson.

Because the statement was passed on Wednesday under the UC’s Tier 2 publicity — which requires the statement’s inclusion in a Facebook post and in the UC’s weekly newsletter — the legislation only needed a majority of voting members to pass. Tier 1 publicity, which involves an immediate emailed announcement to students, requires a three-quarters vote to pass.

— Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at kevin.chen@thecrimson.com.

— Staff writer Laura C. Espinoza can be reached at laura.espinoza@thecrimson.com.

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