Avital Ronell, a queer professor at New York University
Our thanks to John for this. Extracts:
Ronell, for her part, has denied all allegations of sexual contact and sexual harassment between her and her former graduate student. (Neither she nor her lawyer has responded to numerous requests for interviews from Jezebel.) In a statement to the Times, she described the email exchanges as mutual conversations between two consenting adults. (It’s worth noting that she doesn’t dispute the content of their emails, but rather Reitman’s framing of them as harassment): “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.”…
The kind of behavior Reitman alleges against Ronell is not an isolated incident, but rather, thrives in a system in which professors wield a wildly disproportionate amount of power over their students, particularly graduate students. Advisors, especially senior faculty like Ronell who are highly regarded in their field, have the ability to dictate the futures of their mentees post-graduation when they enter a market where jobs—especially tenure-track jobs—are increasingly scarce. This is exacerbated by a situation in which the blurring of lines between the personal and professional in the relationships between professors and their graduate students is, if not the norm, not particularly frowned upon and often encouraged. “People know that she is very friendly and open and crosses traditional boundaries in relationships with her students,” [J4MB emphasis] Safit, Ronell’s friend and NYU colleague, told Jezebel.