The Formal Charge Against Lurie

A bit more on Disgrace. Talking things over with Liz Evans, she pointed out that the specific charge leveled against Lurie by Melanie Isaacs isn’t entirely clear; we’re never told anything beyond the fact that it involves an alleged breach of “article 3.1 of the university’s Code of Conduct,” which “addresses victimization or harassment of students by teachers” and is a subsection of article 3, concerning “victimization or harassment on grounds of race, ethnic group, religion, gender, sexual preference, or disability” (38-39). Nor do we see the content of Melanie’s statement to the committee (which statement Lurie claims not to have read, though it has been provided to him). [Footnote: There’s also the technical charge of irregularity in grading and recordkeeping, but that is obviously a subsidiary matter, probably best understood as a gesture toward bureaucratic verisimilitude and an attempt to raise the probability of conviction by including a lesser but more easily proven allegation.] The members of the committee refer to the charges alternately as involving “harassment,” “abuse,” and “exploitation.” But it seems unlikely—this was Liz’s point—that they involve rape; if they did, it’s hard to imagine the committee entertaining the possibility that Lurie would retain his position at the university (which does appear to be the suggestion, provided he is willing to make a sincere apology and undergo counseling, etc.).

Why is this important? Because it’s part of the analogy between Melanie’s mistreatment and Lucy’s, hence of the structural and allegorical parallel between colonial violence and retributive justice. I hadn’t noticed this fact concerning Melanie’s accusation, but it adds another important way in which she resembles Lucy; they both present a legal claim to the authorities, but withhold from their accounts any mention of rape. This strengthens the parallel between the two women, and thus reinforces our obligation to make sense of the similarities and differences in the way they’re treated, in the ways they respond to that treatment, and in their respective social and historical positions.

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