New York University professor Avita Ronell is aggressively defending herself against claims of sexual misconduct made by a former advisee.
New York University professor Avita Ronell was suspended last week in the aftermath of a Title IX investigation into her alleged misconduct against former advisee Nimrod Reitman, a gay man. Ronell also claims to be gay herself.
In a statement released last week, Ronell suggested that misconduct against Reitman would be impossible considering that they are both gay. “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,” Ronell wrote. “These communications were repeatedly invited, responded to and encouraged by him over a period of three years.”
On Friday Ronell expanded upon her reaction to the investigation and her suspension. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported last week that Ronell claims that her critics across academia are suffering from a “sexual paranoia.”
“I was in a kangaroo court, and now I look completely like a caricature of predatory aggression, which is a joke to anyone who knows me,” Ronell said during the interview. “People would say, ‘That’s Avi. That’s how she talks.’”
Ronell maintains that her relationship with Reitman was platonic and consensual. “He calls himself a thanatophile, which means he’s drawn to death,” Ronell said. “He’d turn to me with his despair and his extreme anxiety. He’d say no one loves him. I’d write stupidly, because I had nothing to hide, ‘I love you.’ If he had a migraine, I’d say, ‘Let me stroke your head, calm you down.’ He’d say, ‘That’s magical — you’re a healer.’”
“I’m heartbroken that my fast and loose and exuberant and stupid and childish use of language can somehow be gathered up to be a viable weapon against me,” Ronell added.
The investigation into Ronell has created an interesting dynamic. In June, a group of feminist professors signed onto a document that defended Ronell’s innocence. The document was also signed by influential feminist scholar Judith Butler.