'Karma': Black Harvard Professor Demoted Under Claudine Gay Responds to Gay's Resignation

Claudine Gay (Reuters/Brian Snyder), Ronald Sullivan (@ProfRonSullivan X)
January 3, 2024

A black Harvard Law School professor whom former Harvard University president Claudine Gay helped demote years ago responded to Gay's resignation on Tuesday with one word.

"Karma," wrote Ronald Sullivan Jr. in a since-deleted post on X, formerly Twitter.

Sullivan served as a defense attorney for disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein, who was later convicted of sex crimes, prompting backlash from students. After months of student outrage, Harvard in May 2019 decided not to renew Sullivan's contract to be the faculty dean of an undergraduate residence. The student-run Harvard Crimson identified Gay, who served as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the time, as one administrator involved in the decision.

Months prior, Gay criticized Sullivan's response to students' complaints about his representation of Weinstein as "insufficient."

"I feel like the intensity of the response, in some ways, is just this incredibly powerful reminder of the important role of the faculty dean in the life of the college, and in some ways kind of a reaffirmation of the importance of that role," Gay said in a February 2019 interview with the Crimson. "I think that students depend on their faculty deans. They really need them."

Gay in July 2019 suspended and revoked many academic privileges of Roland Fryer, a renowned black economics professor at Harvard, after the university investigated him for allegations of sexual harassment. Fryer famously conducted research into the killings of unarmed people in Houston and did not find racial disparities in the shootings.

Former Harvard law professor Winkfield Twyman in a Newsweek op-ed late last month criticized Gay for her role in the Sullivan and Fryer cases, saying that she "has repeatedly targeted and disrupted the careers of prominent Black male professors."

Gay on Tuesday resigned as Harvard's president after just over six months in the role amid controversy over her response to anti-Semitism on campus and allegations of plagiarism in her academic work. The Washington Free Beacon revealed dozens of the plagiarism allegations against Gay, including six new examples in a report on Monday evening. Harvard's governing board in a hasty review last month of Gay's work, which it claimed exonerated the former president, had failed to identify any of the new allegations.

Some of Gay's defenders claimed race played a role in the attacks against her. Al Sharpton called her resignation "an attack on every black woman in this country who's put a crack in the glass ceiling." He also blamed hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, a Harvard alumnus and vocal critic of Gay, for a "relentless campaign against President Gay, not because of her leadership or credentials but because he felt she was a [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] hire."

Gay herself said in a letter announcing her resignation that it was "frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus."

Update 1:37 p.m.: This piece has been updated with additional context.