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UC Irvine drops suit over archives

The college may keep the papers of Jacques Derrida it already has and must pay legal fees.

May 22, 2007|Roy Rivenburg | Times Staff Writer

Chalk one up for the dead French philosopher.

Three years after professional thinker Jacques Derrida reneged on a promise to donate his scholarly papers to UC Irvine, school officials have dropped their lawsuit against his estate.

As part of a deal announced Monday, UCI also agreed to pay Derrida's widow $16,000 for her legal fees.

Under the pact, the university will keep the Derrida archives it already has, which cover a period from 1946 to 1998, but give up any claim to the rest.

Derrida, who taught part time at UCI from 1986 until his death in 2004, is the father of deconstruction, an influential and bewildering philosophy that questions absolute truth. He is regarded as the most controversial and daring philosopher of the late 20th century.

In 1990, Derrida signed a document pledging his archives to UCI and slowly began transferring boxes of academic writings, speeches and papers.

But the pipe-puffing Frenchman soured on UCI shortly before his death, vowing to halt the flow of archives unless the university stopped an investigation into his protege, Dragan Kujundzic, an expert in vampire literature accused of sexually harassing a female graduate student.

Although UCI concluded that Kujundzic's four encounters with the student were consensual, the Serbian-born professor was demoted, banned from campus for two quarters without pay and ordered into sexual harassment counseling for violating a university policy that bars faculty from dating students under their supervision.

Kujundzic left Irvine in 2005 to teach at the University of Florida. But he wasn't forgotten by his former mentor's widow, Marguerite Derrida, who cited the case in refusing to relinquish any more of her husband's papers to UCI.

School officials and Derrida's estate spent two years wrangling over the archives. In November, UCI filed a lawsuit in federal court, a move that infuriated Derrida admirers on campus and beyond.

After a small faculty protest in February, UCI said it would withdraw the lawsuit and resume negotiations. But the case was kept on the books at the request of Derrida's widow, the university said.

In April, Derrida's estate launched a countersuit in France, but dropped it after the latest round of talks produced the agreement announced Monday, according to UCI officials.

Derrida's family couldn't be reached for comment.

roy.rivenburg@latimes.com

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