But protecting the norms around the right to counsel is orders of magnitude more important than the “unenlightened or misplaced” discomfort of some Harvard undergraduates––discomfort rooted in difficulty tolerating moral difference, not in having to report sexual assault to Sullivan, as some have erroneously suggested. In fact, Sullivan long ago appointed Linda D. M. Chavers, a resident dean, to serve as his house’s “point person” for sexual-assault issues. (Moreover, Harvard employs dozens of people to whom any student in need could report sexual misconduct.)
People outside Harvard, including up-and-coming defense lawyers and those inclined to attack them, received this message: “Harvard professor out as dean amid backlash for representing Harvey Weinstein.” (That’s from a USA Today article, but other prominent news sources ran similar headlines.) As I previously warned, Harvard’s decision may deter ambitious young lawyers from undertaking the defense of any potentially controversial client, including indigent men who stand accused of rape or sexual assault. That raises the odds of wrongful convictions, especially among the poor. Harvard grads are relatively unlikely to be affected.