New York University Professor Avital Ronell, who been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with young men on more than one occasion, is now facing a backlash against her scholarly work.
Ronell is the recent subject of a Title IX investigation at NYU after a former student accused her of inappropriate behavior. The student, Nimrod Reitman, gave investigators dozens of emails that revealed Ronell’s injection of romance into their scholarly relationship. She referred to Reitman, a gay man, by pet names like “baby love,” “my sacred,” and “most honey bunny.” Reitman also claimed that he had been subjected to unwanted kissing and touching.
This wasn’t the first accusation of inappropriate sexual misconduct against Ronell. In a passage from the authoritative biography on famous postmodern philosopher Jacques Derrida, Ronell, who claims to be gay, is said to have engaged in a romantic relationship with the philosopher’s underage son. At the time, Ronell was 27 and the young Derrida was only 16.
Now, instructors around the country are considering whether or not they should drop Ronell’s work from their syllabi. And her loudest critics don’t want to stop there. Mount Allison University sociologist Ardath Whynacht has started a campaign to remove the works of Ronell’s supporters from syllabi. This would include the works of famed feminists like Judith Butler, who is often featured in liberal arts classes around the country. Butler led a campaign in defense of Ronell. Her main defense of Ronell focused on features of her identity, such as the fact that she’s a woman and a feminist.
But for real— her text messages to her student were gross. Graphic, childish and needy. She expected him to cuddle her, read to her and work long hours over weekends at her home. Classic predatory behaviour and constant refusal to respect appropriate boundaries.
— Dr. Ardath Whynacht (@ArdathJean) August 16, 2018
“Her text messages to her student were gross. Graphic, childish and needy. She expected him to cuddle her, read to her and work long hours over weekends at her home,” Whynacht wrote. “Classic predatory behaviour and constant refusal to respect appropriate boundaries.”