, 22 tweets, 4 min read
A caveat before I get into the Ronell #MeTooPhD mess: when Butler, Felman, Spivak and Caruth are on one side and Leiter on the other, I do have misgivings. Butler says the letter we have access to is incorrect. I do wonder what I'm missing about this all.

But so are a lot of us.
Regardless of what actually happened, the (available) letter in support of Ronell contains an egregious list of victim-blaming cliches:
"we have all worked for many years in close proximity to Professor Ronell"

So have most colleagues of most faculty. When a grad brings up faculty harassment, it's them--temporary, transient, less trusted--vs a long-term community member. It's part of the challenge of #MeTooPhD.
"We have all seen her relationship with students"

Some harassment happens in full view of conferences, onlookers, etc. But most doesn't, in part because there are consequences. You do not and cannot know how your colleagues treat students in private.
"some of us know the individual who has waged this malicious campaign against her"

Must we go into the trope of retaliatory, unreliable accusers? False accusations do exist. They're rare. But their existence is used to discredit almost anyone alleging sexual harassment/assault.
"We hold that the allegations against her do not constitute actual evidence"

Sexual harassment/assault often come down to he-said/she-said. It's why "believe victims/women" has emerged as feminist praxis: the one is a harasser or the other a liar.+
We default to believing that the accuser (most often a woman) is a liar. It's the lesser evil, it gets us off the hook for overlooking harassers in our midst, it lets us keep our social circles.+
You do need evidence for a formal adjudication, but feminists leaning into this divide between allegation and evidence must know they are reinforcing systemic, formal disbelief of victims.
"There is arguably no more important figure in literary studies at New York University" + much more about her accomplishments.

At best, this is relevant how?

At worst, it's an implicit--& all too common!--argument to excuse bad behavior because of the perpetrator's "genius."
"As you know, she is the Jacques Derrida Chair of Philosophy at the European Graduate School"

I particularly like this inclusion in light of Derrida's defense of a mentee found responsible for harassment--Derrida wielded his reputation & many of these same fallacies as a cudgel.
"We [...] ask that she be accorded the dignity rightly deserved by someone of her international standing and reputation"

This appears to be an argument for special treatment. If NYU handled her case poorly, then that should be a problem regardless of her standing.+
It also further plays into the idea that brilliant or prominent people deserve special leeway, consideration, or appeals--dignity (and authority and trustworthiness) beyond what is normally accorded.

That should have no place in adjudications.
"If she were to be terminated or relieved of her duties, the injustice would be widely recognized and opposed."

This brings external pressure to bear on the adjudicatory and disciplinary process, unrelated to the actual merits of the case.
"The ensuing loss for the humanities, for New York University, and for intellectual life during these times would be no less than enormous"

HAVE WE NOT SUFFICIENTLY DISCUSSED THE PROBLEMS IN MOURNING AN INDIVIDUAL'S WORK VS THE LOST POTENTIAL/WORK OF THEIR VICTIMS'?!?
"She deserves a fair hearing, one that expresses respect, dignity, and human solicitude in addition to our enduring admiration."

The letter provides nothing to suggest the hearing was unfair, but seems to imply that anything finding her responsible must not have been fair.
So. The letter says that the writers "have no access to the
confidential dossier." The published email excerpts look pretty squicky. We don't know what additional information the signatories have.

Which brings me back around to my main issue: we don't know.
I am seeing disconnects between how faculty and students in our field are discussing this case. So signatories, from the student perspective:

This is a letter that reeks of defensiveness.
It is a letter full of victim-blaming cliches.
It says you will not believe us.
It means you will not learn, for years, of any (other?) harassers among you, because we have seen you close ranks and cast aspersions on potential victims' credibility. And, given Ronell's statements, on victims' academic merits.
If we are missing something, please clarify.

If you know of exculpatory evidence that you cannot share, I am sorry for your situation, but many of us will still mistrust you until we learn more.

It is not enough, here, to say "trust me."
And it is important enough to me (and to colleagues) that you hear this that I'm speaking up. About my own field. I am calling out Butler and Felman, Spivak, my own fantastic professors Caruth and Culler, and more heavyweights. What is going on? This has done damage.
It seems like we could've had a conversation about transparency and sensitive information.

But instead we have to ask whether the luminaries of our field recognize their own weaponization of harmful narratives. Narratives that they themselves once elucidated for us.
Updated with a statement from Judith Butler:
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