NEW YORK – A prominent New York University professor, who has been sued by a former student who accuses her of sexual harassment and said that her relationship with him was not sexual, and affective e-mails exchanged were simply “gay-coded” correspondence.
Professor Avita Ronell, a world-famous professor of German and comparative literature, gave a statement on Friday in response to a lawsuit filed against her this week by former student and advisee, Nimrod Reitman.
In the lawsuit, Reitman said that he was exposed to unwanted kissing and groping, and he said that he received many messages that made him uncomfortable.
Ronell denied having a sexual contact with her former student and said their e-mails that “exaggerated manifestations of tenderness”, because they are both gay, not because they are sexually harassing him.
She also said that her messages had been answered. In her declaration, that they a number of alleged excerpts of their e-mails, in which she claims Reitman intended for her beloved and special,” “Baby” and “Sweet Lover.”
Ronell said their emails were usually related to their relationship, but they often contain “literary allusions” and “poetic.”
Reitman, who has a doctorate from NYU in 2015, said the professor created “a fictional romantic relationship” and sabotaged his efforts to get a position as a teacher. He is also suing the university, alleging administrators failed to take action after he told a vice provost about the misconduct, while still a student. He is looking for an unknown compensation.
The university opened an investigation last summer, shortly after Reitman made a formal complaint.
NYU’s Title IX office concluded that Reitman was sexually abused and suspended the professor for one year and determined that all future meetings with students. It made her allegations that her actions amounted to sexual abuse.
It said it did not believe that the filing of a lawsuit against the “would be justified or just.”
In the lawsuit, Reitman accuses the professor of the demanding he her in “over-the-top, exuberant language, including that he constantly his love for her, and his failure to do so would result in Ronell angry, reprimanding him, and the refusal to work with him.”
Ronell said she uses the same type of flowery language in her e-mails with many others. She said that Reitman answered this language to her while at the same time, telling others she was a “witch” “evil” and a “monster.” Ronell said the lawsuit is really about “the impossibility of Reitman to find a job,” and not sexual.