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August 15, 2018

Feminist Professor Found Guilty of Pervasive, 3-Year Sexual Harassment of Male Graduate Student;
Other Feminists Defended Her and, Get This, Blamed the Victim

,If any of this surprises you, you haven't been paying attention.

The case seems like a familiar story turned on its head: Avital Ronell, a world-renowned female professor of German and Comparative Literature at New York University, was found responsible for sexually harassing a male former graduate student, Nimrod Reitman.

An 11-month Title IX investigation found Professor Ronell, described by a colleague as "one of the very few philosopher-stars of this world," responsible for sexual harassment, both physical and verbal, to the extent that her behavior was "sufficiently pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of Mr. Reitman's learning environment." The university has suspended Professor Ronell for the coming academic year.

In the Title IX final report, excerpts of which were obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Reitman said that she had sexually harassed him for three years, and shared dozens of emails in which she referred to him as "my most adored one," "Sweet cuddly Baby," "cock-er spaniel," and "my astounding and beautiful Nimrod."

Coming in the middle of the #MeToo movement's reckoning over sexual misconduct, it raised a challenge for feminists -- how to respond when one of their own behaved badly. And the response has roiled a corner of academia.

Soon after the university made its final, confidential determination this spring, a group of scholars from around the world, including prominent feminists, sent a letter to N.Y.U. in defense of Professor Ronell. Judith Butler, the author of the book "Gender Trouble" and one of the most influential feminist scholars today, was first on the list.

"Although we have no access to the confidential dossier, we have all worked for many years in close proximity to Professor Ronell," the professors wrote in a draft letter posted on a philosophy blog in June. "We have all seen her relationship with students, and some of us know the individual who has waged this malicious campaign against her."

Critics saw the letter, with its focus on the potential damage to Professor Ronell's reputation and the force of her personality, as echoing past defenses of powerful men.

Only critics saw the letter in that way?

Is there another way to see it?

"We testify to the grace, the keen wit, and the intellectual commitment of Professor Ronell and ask that she be accorded the dignity rightly deserved by someone of her international standing and reputation," the professors wrote.

Mr. Reitman, who is now 34 and is a visiting fellow at Harvard, says that Professor Ronell kissed and touched him repeatedly, slept in his bed with him, required him to lie in her bed, held his hand, texted, emailed and called him constantly, and refused to work with him if he did not reciprocate. Mr. Reitman is gay and is now married to a man; Professor Ronell is a lesbian.

All right, I didn't see that coming, but in retrospect, of course I should have.

...

Two years after graduating from N.Y.U. with a Ph.D., Mr. Reitman filed a Title IX complaint against his former adviser, alleging sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking and retaliation. In May, the university found Professor Ronell responsible for sexual harassment and cleared her of the other allegations.

Mr. Reitman's lawyer, Donald Kravet, said he and his client have drafted a lawsuit against N.Y.U. and Professor Ronell and are now considering their options.

;...

The problems began, according to Mr. Reitman, in the spring of 2012, before he officially started school. Professor Ronell invited him to stay with her in Paris for a few days. The day he arrived, she asked him to read poetry to her in her bedroom while she took an afternoon nap, he said.

Totally collegial behavior. I ask work-friends to read me poetry while I nap in my budoir in my Parisian pied-a-terre all the time.

Doesn't mean anything.

"That was already a red flag to me," said Mr. Reitman. "But I also thought, O.K., you're here. Better not make a scene."

Then, he said, she pulled him into her bed.

"She put my hands onto her breasts, and was pressing herself -- her buttocks --onto my crotch," he said. "She was kissing me, kissing my hands, kissing my torso."

...

When he got to New York, the behavior continued, he said, when after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, Professor Ronell showed up at his apartment because her power had gone out. He said that, despite his objections, she convinced him that they could both sleep in his bed together. Once there, she groped and kissed him each night for nearly a week, he said.

And feminists, who are supposedly opposed to harassment, defended this woman and attacked the man she was harassing.


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posted by Ace of Spades at 01:41 PM

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