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New York lesbian professor accused of sexually harassing gay student

New York lesbian professor accused of sexually harassing gay student

New York University Professor Avital Ronell

An 11-month Title IX investigation recently found New York University Professor Avital Ronell responsible for sexually harassing her gay student, Nimrod Reitman.

The New York Times first reported the story.

Ronell, a lesbian, teaches German and Comparative Literature at the school. One colleague described her as ‘one of the very few philosopher-stars of this world’.

Title IX is a statute that’s part of the Education Amendment of 1972.

It states: ‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.’

Reitman accused Ronell of sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, and retaliation. NYU concluded the investigation in May and found Ronell responsible for sexual harassment, and cleared her of the remaining charges. The Title IX report said there was not enough evidence to support the rest.

Reitman is now preparing a lawsuit against NYU and Ronell.

What did the investigation find?

Ultimately, the investigation found Ronell responsible for three years of harassment, both physical and verbal.

NYT obtained excerpts from the final report, in which Reitman alleged several examples of such harassment. In emails to him, Ronell reportedly referred to him as ‘my most adored one’, ‘sweet cuddly baby’, ‘cock-er spaniel’, and ‘my astounding and beautiful Nimrod’.

Reitman, who is now 34 and married, said Ronell kissed and touched him numerous times, slept in his bed with him and required him to lie in her bed, held his hand, texted, emailed and called him constantly. He also said she would refuse to work with him unless he reciprocated.

He said it all began in 2012, before he started school.

Ronell allegedly invited him to stay with her in Paris for a few days.

‘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.’

He reportedly told her what happened ‘was not OK’.

NYU flag
NYU flag | Photo: Flickr/jpellgen

Denying it

In a statement, Ronell denied the claims.

‘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 said.

‘These communications were repeatedly invited, responded to and encouraged by him over a period of three years.’

A group of scholars sent a letter to NYU defending Ronell.

‘Although we have no access to the confidential dossier, we have all worked for many years in close proximity to Professor Ronell,’ it reads.

They also added some of them know Reitman.

‘We deplore the damage that this legal proceeding causes her, and seek to register in clear terms our objection to any judgment against her.  We hold that the allegations against her do not constitute actual evidence, but rather support the view that malicious intention has animated and sustained this legal nightmare.’

Unfortunate and regretful

John Beckman, NYU spokesman, released a statement to GSN about the situation.

When Nimrod Reitman first came to NYU’s Title IX office — two years after he graduated — the staff there took his reports of sexual misconduct very seriously and conducted a thorough investigation that concluded that he was, in fact, the victim of sexual misconduct.’

He further confirmed that Ronell has been suspended from the university, and ‘any meetings she has with students at some future time must be supervised’.

The school is also looking into the other claims, like retaliation.

The University takes the issue of sexual misconduct seriously — indeed, training on sexual misconduct is universally required — and regrets the troubling behavior to which Mr. Reitman was subjected,’ he continued.

Nevertheless, we think the lawsuit filed today is unfortunate. We have been trying to come to a fair settlement with Mr. Reitman, but his demands remain unreasonably high — many millions of dollars. We shall continue to try to come to terms with him and work to help him put this unfortunate chapter behind him.’

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