A prominent feminist professor has her own #MeToo situation.
New York University (NYU) suspended Avital Ronell, a German and comparative literature professor, for the upcoming academic year after a Title IX investigation found her guilty of sexual harassing Nimrod Reitman, a former male student, according to the New York Times.
The 34-year-old visiting fellow at Harvard described to the Times what the 66-year-old Ronell did to him.
He said, “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.”
When NYU made the decision this spring, Ronell had many supporters. Around 50 scholars and influential feminists defended her in a letter to the school.
“Although we have no access to the confidential dossier, we have all worked for many years in close proximity to Professor Ronell and accumulated collectively years of experience to support our view of her capacity as teacher and a scholar, but also as someone who has served as Chair of both the Departments of German and Comparative Literature at New York University,” her defenders wrote.
“We have all seen her relationship with students, and some of us know the individual who has waged this malicious campaign against her,” the letter continues. “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 harassment started in 2012 and continued for three years. Reitman filed a Title IX lawsuit two years after graduating from NYU, according to the Times.
Ronell began her actions when she showed up to Reitman’s apartment after her power went out. She convinced him to sleep in the same bed with her. For almost a week, they groped and kissed each other, according to the Times.
Ronell denied her actions.
“Our communications — which Reitman now claims constituted sexual harassment — were between two adults, a gay man and a queer woman, who share an Israeli heritage, as well as a penchant for florid and campy communications arising from our common academic backgrounds and sensibilities,” she wrote in a statement to The New York Times. “These communications were repeatedly invited, responded to and encouraged by him over a period of three years.”
Reitman has drafted a lawsuit against NYU and Ronell, but is considering all of his options, according to the Times.