Prof Accused of Sexual Harassment: Did Northwestern Ignore It Because the Victim Was Male?

Title IX prohibits retaliation, gender discrimination



A Northwestern University student has filed a Title IX lawsuit against the administration for responding with "deliberate indifference" to the student's accusation of sexual harassment against a professor.

The student is male, and some wonder whether his gender was a factor in Northwestern's treatment of him.

Federal Judge Sara Ellis ruled last week that the student's lawsuit can proceed. He first reported the harassment to the university in November of 2012. According to The Daily Northwestern:

According to the lawsuit filed in November, the professor recruited the student in 2006 for NU's Medical Scientist Training Program, a combined degree program that allows students to earn a Ph.D and M.D. simultaneously. The professor, then-director of the program, assured the student he would be able to concurrently pursue a third degree, a Master of Science in Clinical Investigation, and would have the financial support of a Ryan Fellowship for the first five years, with a guaranteed extension from years six to eight, according to the suit.

The professor began sexually harassing the student within three months of his July 2007 enrollment in the program, according to the suit. The professor allegedly started "making suggestive comments" about the student's physical appearance and "ogling" him. At a 2010 off-campus retreat, the professor allegedly invited the student back to his room so he could cut his hair. The suit also claims that the professor asked the student's peers about the student's sexual orientation.

When the student rebuffed the professor's alleged advances, the professor retaliated, according to the suit, by "interfering with his academic accomplishments and opportunities."

Specifically, the professor discontinued a scholarship program the student was counting on. But the student's advisor told him it was too late to file a complaint, since the alleged harassment had taken place more than two years prior. That's an inadequate response, however, according to The Washington Examiner's Ashe Schow, who reports that the time limit only applies to formal Title IX complaints.

Nevertheless, Northwestern University Title IX Coordinator Joan Slavin investigated the student's accusation and found that the professor's conduct was "ill-advised and unwelcome," but did not constitute sexual harassment.

Both Schow and The College Fix's Greg Piper think things might have gone very differently for the student had he been a woman:

Now imagine, as the College Fix does, what would have happened had a female student made similar allegations against a professor. One doesn't have to imagine, because NU had previously allowed a female student's accusation against a professor to continue despite the alleged misconduct occurring two years prior. That case involved an accusation of sexual assault, not sexual harassment, but Title IX requires schools to handle both, so the 180-day rule should have applied.

I have no idea whether the student's lawsuit is justified. It would appear so, if the stated facts are accurate. A student should not suffer academically because he rebuffed a professor's sexual advances. And Title IX is commonly understood to protect members of the university community from that specific kind of retaliation.

Of course, whether the professor actually retaliated against the student is unknown. Mere "ogling" and sexual advances probably satisfy the absurdly low bar for sexual harassment under Title IX, though I don't think they should. Students and professors should not be punished for merely expressing sexual interest in each other.

Ironically, an essay on this topic—sex between students and professors, and Title IX—is precisely what got Northwestern University Professor Laura Kipnis in trouble with the university's Title IX inquisition. In that instance, administrators hired a team of outside lawyers to investigate whether the act of writing about Title IX cases was itself a violation of Title IX.

It's more than a little ironic that Northwestern didn't take an alleged case of actual sexual harassment nearly as seriously.

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  1. Well, with every other university getting in the news about such things, I suppose it was just a matter of time before my alma mater NU got well-represented. Regarding the alt-text, it might not be the perfect image, but at least the folder is appropriately Northwestern Purple.

  2. was the professor a female? If so, what is the dudes problem?

    1. At a 2010 off-campus retreat, the professor allegedly invited the student back to his room so he could cut his hair. The suit also claims that the professor asked the student’s peers about the student’s sexual orientation.

      The prof is a dude.

      1. The suit also claims that the professor asked the student’s peers about the student’s sexual orientation.

        “It’s not my fault his friends told me he was gay as a joke.”

      2. And I’ll bet dollars to donuts that the professor is also a leftard. Sometimes, leftards protect their own.


        1. WHAT?!!!

          This is unpossible.

  3. While it’s entirely possible the student was ignored by the school because he’s male, it’s also likely that the school did not want to prosecute a case of sexual harassment against a gay faculty member. The student got hit with the double whammy of campus identity politics.

    1. Yes.

      I don’t know whether the gay professor in question is guilty or not. Maybe the student is making this stuff up.

      But if he was straight, then “ill-advised and unwelcome” advances on a coed would have met with a terrible retribution. And innocence would have been no defense.

    2. And for the hat trick, they can accuse the student for failing to obtain affirmative consent from the professor for the harassment.

      1. While they were stoned, and hanging out with Mexican illegal immigrants.

        BAM! The perfecta.

    3. Hell, the kid’s lucky that he wasn’t told that merely filing his charge was an act of homophobic microaggression, that pursuing his charge created a “hostile work environment” for the accused professor, and that rebuffing the professor’s advances was itself an act of sexual preference discrimination unless the kid can prove, by a preponderance of evidence, that he would also have rejected advances from female professors.

      1. Yeah, the kid can’t possibly be the victim of harassment, because WHITE MALE PRIVILEGE!!1!!!!

      2. Not bad. The (legal) status of heterosexuality is fairly fuzzy. How the public/private distinction is applied seems erratic. Try to set heterosexuality apart from “sexism”

        (Speaking of which, consider Daphne Patai, Heterophobia.)

  4. Too bad the student isn’t gay – just not into this particular prof. Were he gay as well he would have been of a protected class and his claim would have gotten traction immediately.

  5. I am reminded of the old Bob Hope (I think) joke about gay marriage in California. He was leaving the state before it became mandatory.

    While it won’t go that far, clearly male on male sexual harassment/rape is pretty much completely ignored because you simply aren’t allowed to criticism homosexuals anymore.

    1. I’m guessing it’s a regulation stemming from the FYTW clause.

    2. A subsection under the “We Made It Up” clause.

    3. A convenient way to run out the clock on incidents they don’t wish to pursue. You never heard about the 180 day rule in the UVa mess.

    4. There is a 180 day statute of limitations for Title IX complaints. Which seems to be ignored when they feel like.

      1. Well, I was hoping it was a gay euphemism for something sexual that I could add to my catalog of shocking things to say to people.

  6. Thr harassment went on for three years, no complaint was made. The first complaint was made two years after that because the student perceived retaliation but he was not specifically denied something.

    I don’t know, but I am thinking the case may be a bit weak.

    1. Okay, so he did file a complaint directly after a specific action. I was thinking the scholarship was denied two year ago. I feel a bit better about this case now.

    2. The problem with that is the university did accept a complaint from a female student years after the fact.

  7. Pics or it didn’t happen.

  8. if you haven’t gotten a blow-job from a superior officer, well, you’re just letting the best in life pass you by.


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  10. Agree on the too-low bar; comparison to Kipnis is a good one.

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