NEW YORK – A former New York University graduate student has sued a prominent professor, who claimed they turned his dream to work with a world-class scholar “in more than three years of uninterrupted and unhindered by sexual harassment, sexual violence, and stalking.”
The lawsuit was filed by Nimrod Reitman in the state Supreme Court in Manhattan on Wednesday against the university and professor Avital Ronell. Said NYU failed to take action after Reitman told a vice provost about the misconduct, while he was still a student.
Last summer, two years after Reitman studied, he made a formal complaint, and the university opened an investigation.
The staff of the NYU’s Title IX office took Reitman reports of sexual misconduct “very seriously,” university spokesman John Beckman said. The closed Reitman was a victim of sexual harassment and suspended Ronell for a year, while the provision that all the meetings she has with students in the future should be monitored, he said.
“We have tried to work with Mr. Reitman to help him, this unfortunate chapter behind him, and we are sympathetic to what he has experienced,” Beckman said in a statement. “However, given the speed, the seriousness and thoroughness with which we responded to his cost, we do not believe that the filing of a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the University would be justified or just.”
Beckman said the university was still investigating whether he is revenge against it, and “additional sanctions” was possible.
Ronell did not respond to an e-mail to The Associated Press on Thursday. But earlier this week, before the lawsuit was filed, she told The New York Times that they not bother Reitman.
“Our communication — that Reitman now claims constituted sexual harassment were between two adults, a gay man and a lesbian woman, who is an Israeli heritage, as well as a penchant for flowery and campy communication arising from our shared academic backgrounds and sensibilities,” she said. “These messages were repeatedly invited, responded to, and encouraged by him over a period of three years.”
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, says Reitman suffered humiliation, reputation damage, psychological symptoms and physical discomfort.
Ronell, a world-renowned academic and author, is a professor of German and comparative literature at NYU. She has lectured at universities all over the world and received several prestigious awards and scholarships.
The lawsuit said Ronell began harassing Reitman even before he moved from Berlin to New York to begin his studies.
After Reitman an event organized at the University of Tel Aviv in 2012 is centered around the Ronell’s new book, she began to call him that lasted for hours, and if they are discussed are mostly personal topics, the lawsuit said.
Soon, they invited him to stay with her in Paris, where she pulled him to her bed and kissed him, the lawsuit said. They reacted angrily when Reitman reminded her that he was gay and in a relationship with someone else, it is added.
The lawsuit said Ronell “made of a fictional romantic relationship between herself and her students Reitman, and claimed complete domination and control over his life, both inside and outside of his academic endeavors, repeatedly and with violence, groping, touching, and kissed him on a regular basis.”
She said that she also demanded that he communicate with 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.”
“Reitman had no romantic feelings in the direction of Ronell, but was forced to participate in her delusions,” the lawsuit said.
After Reitman obtained his phd in 2015, Ronell punished him for “leaving” her by sabotaging his efforts to a position as a teacher, the lawsuit said.
Reitman said that he was inspired by the women who “shared their stories and ignite the #MeToo movement.”
“It was never my intention to be a part of this extraordinary movement, but if my story can help prevent this from happening to other students or if my story helps others feel that they are not alone, then I’m glad to have spoken,” he said in a statement.