A little over a month ago the Chron reported that the University of California at Irvine was suing the family of Jacques Derrida over the philosopher’s papers. Two weeks later the LA Times reported that U.C. Irvine was dropping its suit. Want to know where the feminist legal issue is? On February 25th the LA Times reported:
When a vampire expert allegedly seduced a tipsy UC Irvine student four years ago, he inadvertently set off a chain of events that now jeopardizes the school’s control of a dead philosopher’s prized archives.
The story came to light after UCI announced last week that it would drop a lawsuit against the widow and sons of philosopher Jacques Derrida, the acclaimed founder of deconstruction, an influential but bewildering theory that questions the concept of absolute truth.
In 1990, Derrida signed an agreement to donate his scholarly papers to UCI, where he taught part time. But after his death in 2004, Derrida’s heirs began questioning the pact. The university tried to negotiate, then sued three months ago, a maneuver that outraged professors in California and beyond.
Buried in the news that UCI would resume negotiations with Derrida’s family was a mysterious footnote: The feud over his archives was sparked by a letter Derrida sent to UCI shortly before his death.
In it, the pipe-puffing Frenchman threatened to pull the plug on the archives because he was furious about “some things the university was doing,” said Peggy Kamuf, a USC professor and Derrida friend.
Kamuf wouldn’t elaborate, but details have slowly emerged. According to multiple sources, Derrida wanted UCI to halt its investigation of a Russian studies professor, Dragan Kujundzic, who was accused of sexually harassing a 25-year-old female doctoral student. So he tried to use his archives as leverage to derail the case, they said.
UCI officials declined to comment on Derrida’s letter or Kujundzic last week. But court records from a lawsuit filed by the doctoral student might fill in some of the gaps.
The 2004 sexual harassment lawsuit contends that Kujundzic, who taught a popular class on vampires and signed his e-mails with a colon to symbolize Dracula bite marks, used his position as the student’s advisor to manipulate her into a series of sexual encounters. …
… The student said she felt coerced to engage in sex or risk having her academic career ruined. UCI’s probe of the affair sided with neither party. Investigator Gwen Thompson concluded the relationship was consensual but said Kujundzic violated a university policy that barred professors from dating students they supervised.
Kujundzic argued that he wasn’t the student’s advisor, an assertion UCI rejected. In mid-2004, university officials began weighing penalties for the Serbian-born professor.
Derrida, who at the time was dying from pancreatic cancer, tried to intervene.
“Toward the end of his life, he enjoyed the same status as Aristotle among the ancients, and every perception of injustice was routed to his desk,” said Avital Ronell, a Derrida protege who teaches at New York University. “Even as he was crawling with fatigue, he put himself in the service of those seeking his help and needing the strength of his prestigious signature.”
UCI was apparently unmoved. On Aug. 31, school officials demoted Kujundzic, reduced his salary, banned him from campus without pay for two quarters and ordered him into sexual-harassment counseling, according to court records.
Kujundzic and the University of California were later sued in Orange County Superior Court by the student, a case that was settled out of court this month for an undisclosed amount.
Derrida’s archives, caught in the crossfire, remain in limbo. Last fall, after negotiations broke off between UCI and Derrida’s heirs, the school sued his family, which lives in France. …
There is a lot going on here, but I guess I should leave readers to [wait for it] deconstruct the matter for themselves. Or, you can see what KC Sheehan has to say about it. See also. Incidentally, if you are wondering what happened to Kudjundzic, he is apparently now on the faculty at the University of Florida.