Mother Jones has a batshit story about Elizabeth Abel, a University of California-Berkeley professor who goes on sabbatical and rents her house to David Peritz, an academic from Sarah Lawrence, who then refuses to leave: He stops paying rent and, when finally forced out, strips the house of many of her possessions. It’s a great story about eviction law in California, but it doesn’t get really great until renowned gender theorist Judith Butler shows up.
Butler and her partner and fellow star academic Wendy Brown are colleagues of Abel and became involved in the dispute while Abel was on sabattical. Per the MJ story:
Butler sent Peritz two epic, eviscerating emails. The first began, “I have recently become aware of your scurrilous behavior—effectively squatting in the home of my colleague, Elizabeth Abel. If you are not out of that apartment within five days time, I will write to every colleague in your field explaining the horrible scam you have committed.” The second, written less than a week later, bore the subject line “your miscalculation” and included this withering coup de grâce:
…please accept the fact that you have painted yourself into a corner, and that you have to leave promptly, and with an apology and a payment plan, in order to avoid any further destruction to your professional and personal world. Your itinerary of self-destruction is a stellar one.
Brown’s email was equally harsh. “It’s past time for you to leave. And in case you are wondering whether there are any future possibilities of teaching at Berkeley, the answer is an emphatic no,” she wrote. “The game is up.”
There are two morals to this story. The first is be very careful when renting your home to strangers. The second is don’t fuck with Judith Butler.