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Another professor backs off earlier defense of feminist prof who sexually harassed student

Feminist prof was ultimately found responsible by university

The fallout continues regarding a letter written by numerous academics in defense of a feminist professor found responsible for sexual harassment, with yet another professor distancing herself from her earlier defense of the instructor.

That letter, signed by dozens of academics, claimed that New York University professor Avital Ronell was being subject to a “malicious campaign” after one student accused her of sexual harassment, and asked that she be “accorded the dignity rightly deserved by someone of her international standing and reputation.”

After Ronell was found responsible by New York University’s Office of Equal Opportunity for “inappropriate physical contact” and sexual text messages to her student, some of the signatories of that letter rushed to distance themselves from it. Last week, Judith Butler—one of the most prominent gender theory academics in the world—stated that the signatories “should not have used language that implied that Ronell’s status and reputation earn her differential treatment of any kind. Status ought to have no bearing on the adjudication of sexual harassment.”

Now another instructor, Diane Davis from the University of Texas at Austin, is attempting to back away from the claims in the letter, the student newspaper The Daily Texan reports.

“I deeply regret having spoken from what now appears to have been a position of ignorance. I apologize to my students, colleagues and the entire University of Texas community for presuming to intervene based on misinformation about a complex case,” Davis said, according to The Texan, which wrote that Davis was “clarifying” her stance on the controversy.

From the report:

[Davis] said she thought the Title IX investigation’s findings were based off Ronell’s “campy (and reciprocated) language use,” but her perspective changed once she viewed leaked court documents and learned of a larger potential misuse of power. The court documents said Ronell sent sexual texts to Reitman and engaged in inappropriate physical contact…

Davis said she aims to regain the trust and confidence of her colleagues and students in light of her misjudgment.

“I hope you know that I have never tolerated abuses of power between faculty and students,” Davis said. “I am mortified that my clumsy attempt to defend a friend appeared to contradict this career-long commitment.”

“In hindsight, those of us who sought to defend Ronell against termination surely ought to have been more fully informed of the situation if we were going to make an intervention,” Judith Butler wrote earlier this month.

Following the letter, a petition circulated online demanding that Butler resign from her position as president-elect of the Modern Language Association.

Read the Daily Texan report here.

MORE: Male grad student sues female feminist professor, university for sexual harassment

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