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Title IX, Academia, and Power

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Sep 18, 2018 | 0 Comments

When allegations against Harvey Weinstein were outed to the world, many people expected it to be a standalone case. We've lived in a culture that has allowed people like him to thrive while taking advantage of their notoriety in their respective industries. Given the short-term memory people develop when it comes to prominent figures, society has noticed a trend. After a more shocking story makes headlines, all is forgotten, and the industry affected returns to normal until another perpetrator is revealed.

But with the rise of the #MeToo movement, the culture has shifted. As people from far and wide speak out about their horrifying experiences with prominent figures in a wide variety of industries, companies and organizations are taking action, whether it be due to a moral obligation or fear of retaliation from movement participants.

Regardless of the root of the motivations, there's been significant progress. Executives in companies like Amazon and Nickelodeon resigned or been fired due to sexual assault allegations. Much like many other prominent figures in media, Matt Lauer - co-host of the Today Show and NBC money maker - seemed untouchable at one point. But due to the effects of the movement, even he was fired for “inappropriate sexual behavior.”

But the film and news industries aren't anomalies. Refinement must also be pushed in other professional fields - one being academia.

Academia is plagued by the same sexual harassment and assault issues film and entertainment industries have undergone, but it hasn't been subject to widespread public scrutiny yet. It, unfortunately, echoes the same sentiment though, as academic superstars are bolstered above reproach. We see this phenomenon in a Title IX matter involving a student named Nimrod Reitman and his former New York University graduate school advisor, Avital Ronell.

Avital Ronell is a world-renowned female professor of German and Comparative Literature at NYU. She's an academic powerhouse among her colleagues, and is preceded by her reputation as “one of the very few philosopher-stars of this world.” According to alleged victim Nimrod Reitman, she repeatedly sexually harassed and assaulted him throughout their three-year educational relationship. After an investigation, NYU confirmed some of the allegations by finding Ronell responsible for harassment, but not assault.

Her peers weren't satisfied with the results. A group of scholars from around the world, including prominent feminist Judith Butler, wrote a letter to the school asserting that she wasn't capable of doing what her accusations implied. The letter focused on the potential damage a responsible finding could do to Ronell's reputation and livelihood. They also questioned the character of Reitman, who they claim may have had developed a relationship with Ronell with ill intentions.

Despite the finding, Ronell has been merely suspended, and her reputation to many of her colleagues remains intact. Many think she was let off the hook. In a case in which the complexities of gender equality and power dynamics must be sorted out, Title IX resolution and sanctioning still may play into the game that power equals privilege.

Nationwide Title IX Advisor

National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento has the skill, experience, and expertise to help you preserve your entitled rights under Title IX and your school's policy. For a case evaluation or more information about his representation, contact him online or give him a call at 888-535-3686 today.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience passionately fighting for the futures of his clients. Mr. Lento represents students and others in disciplinary cases and other proceedings at universities and colleges across the United States while concurrently fighting in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, and New Jersey. Mr. Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand universities and colleges across the United States. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide.

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