Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, has been cleared of violating the college’s Title IX provision, a rule intended to protect students from sexual misconduct and discrimination. Two Northwestern graduate students filed Title IX complaints against Kipnis for an essay and tweet she authored. A law firm hired by the University to investigate the claims against Kipnis alerted the professor late last week that she had been cleared of wrongdoing.
Both complaints stem from an essay about sexual relationships between professors and students Kipnis published in February for the Chronicle of Higher Education. In the essay Kipnis made a passing reference to a philosophy professor at Northwestern who has been accused of two instances of sexual misconduct by two different students. The professor, Peter Ludow, has filed a lawsuit against the student and university for defamation. One of Ludlow’s accusers, filed a Title IX complaint against Kipnis claiming that the piece has misrepresented her. The second complaint was filed by a grad student who had nothing to do with the case against Ludlow but felt Kipnis’ essay created a “chilling effect” on student’s willingness to come forward with sexual misconduct claims of their own.
In a follow up essay for the Chronicle, Kipnis argued that the Title IX complaints threatened her academic freedom. Kipnis writes:
Much of this remains puzzling to me, including how someone can bring charges in someone else’s name, who is allowing intellectual disagreement to be redefined as retaliation, and why a professor can’t write about a legal case that’s been nationally reported, precisely because she’s employed by the university where the events took place. Wouldn’t this mean that academic freedom doesn’t extend to academics discussing matters involving their own workplaces?
There is a pending Title IX complaint Stephen Eisenman, a fellow faculty member Kipnis brought as her “support person” to meeting with the Title IX investigators. Eisenman is the President of the Faculty Senate and openly criticized the secretive and labyrinthine Title IX process. Students are now asking for Eisenman to step down for speaking publicly about the hearings.
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