One of the earliest Title IX cases of the so-called #MeToo era has taken an interesting turn: The professor who was accused of sexual misconduct and who was suspended without pay for nearly a year is returning to work at the same school.
A Classic Title IX Claim With Unique Details
Back in September 2017, a graduate student at New York University accused a prominent philosophy and literature professor, Avital Ronell, of sexual harassment.
The allegations were typical of Title IX claims: The accuser claimed that the sexual contact – in this case, sexual touching and kissing allegedly over the span of three years – was non-consensual. The accused professor said that the contact was “repeatedly invited, responded to and encouraged.”
Many of the details, though, were very different. Not only was the accuser a man and the accused a woman, but neither party was heterosexual. The fact that the accused professor was the accuser's doctoral advisor also complicated things, as did the professor's standing in her academic field, which included feminist philosophy.
When the allegations were revealed, numerous scholars came to the defense of accused Professor Ronell by signing a letter attesting to her character and intelligence. Many of these supporters were the same #MeToo activists who so ardently insisted that claims of sexual misconduct were not taken seriously enough on campus.
Despite the show of support, New York University's investigation found Professor Ronell responsible for sexual harassment in May 2018, and suspended her without pay for the entire 2018-2019 school year.
The accuser has since filed a lawsuit against Professor Ronell and New York University for sexual misconduct.
Professor Returns to College
Now, New York University has re-hired Professor Ronell to teach classes starting in the upcoming fall semester. In conjunction with the English, German, and Comparative Literature departments, she will be teaching a graduate course called “Unsettled Scores,” which will focus on historical elements of violence and forgiveness.
The decision to re-hire Professor Ronell comes in spite of the ongoing lawsuit by the graduate student against the professor and the college.
A Confused Ending for a Confusing Process
Bringing Professor Ronell back to school is almost certain to raise ire on both sides of the issue: Proponents of due process are sure to argue that Professor Ronell should never have been suspended, in the first place. Advocates for alleged victims will argue that it just shows how little colleges care for the sexual integrity of their institutions.
However, the reinstatement only highlights how little uniformity there is in Title IX cases. With so few rules in place, colleges are left to make their own answers.
Title IX Advisor Joseph D. Lento
The lack of overarching rules is one of the reasons why it is so important to hire a Title IX lawyer if you have been accused of sexual misconduct. Defense attorney and national Title IX advisor helps people who have been accused of sexual harassment or misconduct, whether they be students, faculty, or staff. Contact him online or call his law office at (888) 535-3686.