Phi Beta Cons

A Feminist Is Investigated over Possible Title IX Violations

Laura Kipnis, a professor of radio, television, and film at Northwestern University is a sharp-tongued, irreverent feminist. In February she wrote an essay in the Chronicle Review, “Sexual Paranoia in Academe.” It was a response to what she called “the Great Prohibition”—the university’s ban on sexual or romantic relationships between faculty and undergraduates. She thought the ban was ridiculous. “When I was in college, hooking up with professors was more or less part of the curriculum,” she said (adding that she went to art school).

Furthermore, she was beginning to see a lot of “sensitivity” about sex and potential sexual harassment on campus. The campus was turning into a melodrama, “recasting the professoriate as Snidely Whiplashes twirling our mustaches and students as helpless damsels tied to railroad tracks.”

To illustrate her points, she described a series of “back-and-forth” lawsuits at Northwestern stemming from a sexual encounter between a professor and a student. She did not name names (but linked to a story that named the professor).

After that essay was published, Kipnis soon learned that two students had charged her with violating Title IX by writing the article and referring to the faculty/student imbroglio mentioned above. Now she was being accused of sexual harassment.

On May 29, in another Chronicle Review in an essay “My Title IX Inquisition,” Kipnis discussed the resulting investigation of her by the university, complete with Star Chamber details. For example, she was not allowed to have counsel; the “support person” who was allowed to accompany her to the “interview” with out-of-town lawyers couldn’t speak during the interview; and that person was hit with an investigation himself because he mentioned the case at a faculty senate meeting.

An editor’s note (perhaps added today?) says that Kipnis was acquitted of any violation. But perhaps the next essay will be “The Education of Laura Kipnis.”

Jane S. ShawJane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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