Female professor sexually assaults male student.
A female professor at the New York University, Avital Ronell, has been accused by her former student, Nimrod Reitman of sexually harassing him, and the university found her responsible.
But some leading feminist scholars have supported her in ways that echo the defenses of male harassers.
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,” “rooster-er spaniel,” and “my astounding and beautiful Nimrod.”
It is known, for example, that Ronell hosted M. in Paris and introduced him to writer Pierre Alféri, son of Ronell’s mentor Jacques Derrida.
The circumstances of the souring of the relationship aren’t clear, nor is it known if it was gradual process or if a single incident led to the rupture.
People close to Ronell have said the filing of the complaint came as a “total shock” to her as there had been no hints that M. was about to “turn on her.”
They noted that Ronell was appalled to discover that the complainant had accused her of “psychological abuse.”
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.