Thursday, September 21, 2017

Laura Kipnis's Endless Trial By Title IX

Yet another sign that liberalism is dead is the lack of outrage about the academy having been taken over by the thought police. Here's something on the latest effort to misuse Title IX to punish the critics of the misuse of Title IX:
   Back in 2015, the first investigation of Kipnis immediately triggered several other complaints. A professor whom Kipnis brought to her interview as her “support person” also had a Title IX retaliation complaint filed against him, after he spoke to the faculty senate about his concerns that the Kipnis investigation threatened academic freedom. An additional Title IX complaint at the same time also accused Kipnis of “involvement in and/or approval of” the faculty support person’s statement to the faculty senate. (Both of those complaints were eventually dropped.)
   Drawing on her experience, Kipnis wrote the book “Unwanted Advances,” which was published in April. After Northwestern terminated Ludlow’s employment, he gave Kipnis access to confidential records in the graduate student’s successful Title IX complaint against him, along with thousands of texts and e-mails between them. Kipnis writes that “the more I learned about his situation, the more I saw his case as a lens through which the excesses and hypocrisies of the current campus hysteria came into focus.” Kipnis devotes a chapter of “Unwanted Advances” to her theory that Ludlow was falsely accused. In a letter to the editor in the Daily Northwestern, the Northwestern Philosophy Graduate Student Association objected that Kipnis “unfairly portrayed our colleague,” the graduate student.
  In May, the graduate student sued Kipnis and her publisher, HarperCollins, for defamation. (A HarperCollins representative told me that the company does not comment on pending litigation.) The suit alleges that the book falsely suggests that the graduate student and Ludlow had a consensual dating relationship, falsely insinuates that her allegation of rape was untrue, and falsely claims that she is a “serial Title IX filer.” It also makes an invasion-of-privacy claim, alleging that Kipnis’s book publicly disclosed private facts, including the plaintiff’s prior relationship with a married professor at another school, and details intimate conversations from her relationship with Ludlow.
   It’s puzzling that the plaintiff is staking part of her lawsuit on the alleged falsehood of the statement that she is a “serial Title IX filer.” Kipnis mentions in the book that the graduate student was a complainant in six Title IX complaints; in the suit, the plaintiff acknowledges two, one against Ludlow and one against Kipnis. But days before filing the defamation suit, in May, the graduate student joined four Northwestern faculty members and five other graduate students as a complainant in yet another Title IX complaint against Kipnis, this time based on the publication of “Unwanted Advances.”
   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.”
   If Kipnis did engage in retaliation or violate confidentiality, those infractions would be impossible to untangle from her book’s performance of her protest. “Unwanted Advances” sharply criticizes both the use of Title IX to silence political opponents and the secrecy that can enable abuse and overreach in campus Title IX processes. The latest iteration of Northwestern’s investigation of Kipnis took a month to complete, and again ruled in her favor. The university concluded that she did not retaliate or engage in sexual harassment by discussing mostly public information about pseudonymous students in a book meant to critique the Title IX landscape, including false accusations and the use of Title IX to punish those critical of Title IX. Though she didn’t honor the confidentiality of university investigations, Northwestern recognized that confidentiality is a request rather than a requirement in its sexual-misconduct policy.
   Northwestern’s decision letter did suggest, however, that the dean of Kipnis’s school might still choose to sanction her for possible violations of the university’s policy on “civility and mutual respect.” The evidence: her statements after the book’s publication, in e-mails, on social media, and in talks, in which she questioned the veracity and reliability of the graduate student’s account and hoped that “the book will cause a bit of a shit storm.” The university said that these “behaviors could be interpreted as demeaning and/or intimidating.” Kipnis objected that her statements rebutting charges of inaccuracy in her book could not legitimately be construed as “incivility.” The dean ultimately found that Kipnis did not violate the civility policy, and that was the end of the matter.
Many to most alleged liberals of my acquaintance simply aren't bothered by this. Or they make excuses for it so that they don't have to be looked upon unfavorably for criticizing it. Or they say something on the order of "get back to me when this is as bad as Trump being President." 
   Professors should be rioting on the quad about this.
   I'll say it again: liberalism is dead. 

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