A gay man is suing his former grad school professor of physically and electronically harassing him. Meanwhile, she says the online flirtation was merely a “gay-coded” correspondence.
According to the New York Times, Avital Ronell, a world-renown professor of German and Comparative Literature at New York University, is being sued for sexually harassing a former male grad student of hers.
Ronell allegedly had a very intimate relationship with the student, named Nimrod Reitman, and the two worked together closely until he graduated with a doctorate in 2015.
That said, Ronell allegedly tried to make the relationship become even more intimate.
While still enrolled, Reitman, who is gay and now married, complained to a Vice Provost about Ronell, who is also a lesbian.
The university’s Title IX office conducted an 11-month investigation and concluded that Reitman was indeed sexually harassed. They then suspended Ronell for a year and made sure that any further meetings with students were to be supervised. That said, they cleared her of any allegations of sexual assault.
Feeling undefended, Reitman then decided to take the issue to court. Reitman is suing Ronell for alleged sexual harassment and he’s also suing New York University for allegedly failing to take proper action against the professor.
In his court file, Reitman accused Ronnell of building “a fictitious romantic relationship” between them. He says that Ronell allegedly kissed and touched him repeatedly, slept with him in his bed, forced him to lie in her bed, held his hand, continuously contacted him through email, text, and phone calls, and refused to work with him if he did not reciprocate.
In addition, he provided dozens of emails in which she referred to him as “my most adored one,” “Sweet cuddly Baby,” “cock-er spaniel,” and “my astounding and beautiful Nimrod.
In July of 2012, she wrote the following short email to him:
“Time for your midday kiss. my image during meditation: we’re on the sofa, your head on my lap, stroking you [sic] forehead, playing softly with yr hair, soothing you, headache gone. Yes?”
That said, Ronell released a statement through New York Times in which she claims these additions were “literary allusions” and “poetic runs” shared between literary-minded people.
“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. These communications were repeatedly invited, responded to and encouraged by him over a period of three years.”
Ronell also denied the allegations of sexual assault and pointed towards the initial Title IX report that concluded the same.
She also said that she had no idea Reitman was uncomfortable with their interaction until he reported her.
Reitman refuted her seemingly confused goodwill by additionally accusing her of sending bad recommendation letters to job prospects.
That said, the Title IX office concluded that her letters “were comparable to those for other former students.”
Ronell then retaliated by saying this lawsuit is about “the inability of Reitman to find a job,” and not about anything sexual.
All this he said/she said has led to a complex court case that’s in the middle of its process. We’ll see what the justice system decides in due time.
h/t: New York Times, The Daily Progress