A Statement of Support for Danu Mudannayake '20

April 28, 2019

The Undergraduate Council holds the safety and wellbeing of the Harvard College student body at its core. UC representatives have taken it upon themselves to demonstrate this commitment through projects, funding structures, and advocacy.

On Monday, April 8th, the Crimson reported an incident that occured last Wednesday, April 3rd, involving Harvard College student Danu A. K. Mudannayake and Winthrop resident tutor Carl Miller. Further coverage on Wednesday, April 10th revealed that the Millers plan to file a Title IX complaint against Mudannayake with regards to this incident, in addition to a previously filed Harvard University Police Department report. Danu then filed a police report of her account of the incident. The escalation of these events and contrasting narratives has highlighted the persistent tensions in Winthrop House and is indicative of a larger problem, which the Undergraduate Council must act to address immediately.

We, the elected representatives of the Harvard College student body, firmly believe that the safety, wellbeing, and equal access to educational and residential opportunities for all students are top priorities for the Harvard community. This altercation comes after much controversy surrounding Dean Sullivan’s decision to represent Harvey Weinstein. Regardless of one’s opinion concerning Sullivan’s decision, threatening to file a Title IX complaint against a student for voicing concerns is an unprofessional abuse of power. We therefore condemn all blatant acts of bullying and intimidation enacted upon undergraduate students, especially by House staff. Given the intimidation and pressure facing students, especially those in vulnerable positions, it is the UC’s duty to speak out on their behalf.

We stand with the many members of our community who have voiced their condemnation of the unacceptable power dynamic emerging between some Winthrop House staff and undergraduate students. No student should ever feel intimidated by residential staff. These actions on the part of Winthrop House staff create a toxic environment for students that goes against the House system’s mission of forging a healthy link between learning and living.

Furthermore, we maintain that supporting student survivors in all communities promotes our core values, and we view these acts on behalf of House staff as particularly insensitive to the safety and wellbeing of survivors in Winthrop House and Harvard College at large. 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.

The Undergraduate Council stands in solidarity with Danu Mudannayake and the right to student activism without threat. For these reasons, we strongly support the following immediate actions, to be completed before the end of the 2018-2019 Academic Year:

  • The creation and public dissemination of criteria of what is expected of Faculty Deans and House Tutors
  • The creation and public dissemination of hiring eligibility of tutors while they are in the hiring process
  • The dissemination of results of Winthrop House’s recent student climate survey from earlier this semester
  • A survey of the housing administrators and tutors that have resigned since Sullivan assumed his position as Faculty Dean, and a statistical and qualitative collection of data comparing Winthrop’s social, residential, and cultural climate to that of every other house
  • Protections for student activists by creating the possibility of unilateral no-contact order, which would allow students to continue their advocacy efforts without interference or intimidation by residential staff
  • A public response from Dean Khurana, Dean Brandt, Dean Gay and Dean Shapiro regarding students’ requests for action

No student should ever feel as if their voice is being silenced or as if they are being intimidated to silence themselves. We are committed to promoting open dialogue with our fellow students and relevant administrators. These efforts are central to ensuring that all students, no matter their experiences, feel comfortable and safe calling Harvard their home.

The Harvard Undergraduate Council stands as an ally for all students and survivors. We are here to listen; please reach out via email to your Undergraduate Council Representatives, or Facebook if you want to speak about this or any other issue. Additionally, some resources to reach out to include:

  • Our Harvard Can Do Better, a student organization dedicated to creating a campus safe for survivors of all identities. They can be reached on Facebook or at ourharvardcandobetter@gmail.com.
  • RESPONSE provides peer counseling regarding relationship issues including sexual harassment and assault. Hotline: (617) 495 9600, 8pm-8am. Drop-in hours: Thayer B01, Sun-Thurs 8pm-11pm. https://www.facebook.com/HarvardResponse
  • Catherine Shapiro, the Senior Resident Dean of Harvard College within the Dean of Students Office. She can be reached at 617-495-1577 or cshapiro@fas.harvard.edu
  • The Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response is a confidential space open to the entire Harvard community where people can process and understand their experiences and feel empowered to make the choice best suited to their needs. They can be reached at 617-496-5636 or osapr@harvard.edu.
  • Emily Miller, the College’s Title IX Coordinator within the Title IX Office, serves in a neutral role and support all members of the Harvard College community. Coordinators have specialized experience in responding to disclosures of sexual and gender-based harassment in the Harvard community. Emily can be reached at 617-496-3336 or emilymiller@fas.harvard.edu.
  • Counseling and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) can be reached at 617-495-2042.
  • The Bureau of Study Counsel (BSC) can help you find people, materials, and activities to support you as you develop new skills, perspectives, and capacities, and can be contacted at 617-495-2581 or bsc@harvard.edu