Title IX

Northwestern Investigated Laura Kipnis Again for Violating Title IX with Her Opinions

"So she was investigated for writing about being investigated for writing about being investigated?"


Reason TV

The forces of darkness really don't want Prof. Laura Kipnis to criticize the campus sex bureaucracy—but they keep proving her right about it.

You will recall that Northwestern University investigated Kipnis after she wrote an essay about campus sex politics for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Students claimed her article had violated Title IX, the federal statute ostensibly dealing with gender equality on campus.

One of those students has also filed a defamation suit against Kipnis for her book Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, which cast aspersions on the student's sexual harassment claims against a former professor.

But that's not all: Unbeknownst to the public, Kipnis has been dealing with another Title IX investigation. Several Northwestern graduate students—including the one who is suing Kipnis—filed a Title IX complaint against the professor last May. The details, according to The New Yorker's Jeannie Suk Gerson, are insane:

Kipnis told me that she was surprised when Northwestern once again launched a formal Title IX investigation of her writing. (A spokesperson from Northwestern did not respond to a request for comment by press time.) Kipnis said that investigators presented her with a spreadsheet laying out dozens of quotations from her book, along with at least eighty written questions, such as "What do you mean by this statement?," "What is the source/are the sources for this information?," and "How do you respond to the allegation that this detail is not necessary to your argument and that its inclusion is evidence of retaliatory intent on your part?" Kipnis chose not to answer any questions, following the standard advice of counsel defending the court case.

She did submit a statement saying that "these complaints seem like an attempt to bend the campus judicial system to punish someone whose work involves questioning the campus judicial system, just as bringing Title IX complaints over my first Chronicle essay attempted to do two years ago." In other words, the process was the punishment. Possible evidence of retaliatory purpose, she learned, included statements in the book that aggressively staked out her refusal to keep quiet, expressed in her trademark hyperbole. Her prior Title IX investigation, she writes, "has made me a little mad and possibly a little dangerous….I mean, having been hauled up on complaints once, what do I have to lose? 'Confidentiality'? 'Conduct befitting a professor'? Kiss my ass. In other words, thank you to my accusers: unwitting collaborators, accidental muses." Also presented as possible evidence was her Facebook post quoting a book review—"Kipnis doesn't seem like the sort of enemy you'd want to attract, let alone help create"—on which Kipnis had commented, "I love that."

As Ken White of Popehat tweeted in response to this news:

Keep in mind that the student who filed the lawsuit has based her defamation claim partly on the idea that Kipnis falsely misrepresented her as overly litigious—this, from a student who has filed a lawsuit and multiple Title IX claims against Kipnis.

In any case, it should be obvious that the text of Title IX does not empower university officials to investigate tenured professors for criticizing Title IX, nor was the law intended to weaponize students' grievances. Kipnis's ongoing ordeal is a testament to the pressing need for the Education Department to rein in the Obama-era guidance that spawned this madness, and a reminder that Secretary Betsy DeVos is wholly justified in doing just that.