Most everyone is familiar with the travails of Dr. Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University. Because of an opinion piece she wrote she was hit with a Title IX complaint by a couple of students (the leader of the mob is pictured above, Lauren Leydon-Hardy, @leydonhardy. And yes, she is sort of cute in that rabid-feminist-dominatrix-librarian kind of way.)
Things seemed less amusing when I received an email from my university’s Title IX coordinator informing me that two students had filed Title IX complaints against me on the basis of the essay and “subsequent public statements” (which turned out to be a tweet), and that the university would retain an outside investigator to handle the complaints.
I stared at the email, which was under-explanatory in the extreme. I was being charged with retaliation, it said, though it failed to explain how an essay that mentioned no one by name could be construed as retaliatory, or how a publication fell under the province of Title IX, which, as I understood it, dealt with sexual misconduct and gender discrimination. …
I wrote back to the Title IX coordinator asking for clarification: When would I learn the specifics of these complaints, which, I pointed out, appeared to violate my academic freedom? And what about my rights — was I entitled to a lawyer? I received a polite response with a link to another website. No, I could not have an attorney present during the investigation, unless I’d been charged with sexual violence. I was, however, allowed to have a “support person” from the university community there, though that person couldn’t speak. I wouldn’t be informed about the substance of the complaints until I met with the investigators.
Her crime was opining that the campus sexual witch hunt hysteria might have gone too far. The fact that Kipnis is pretty much of the political persuasion you’d expect to find among female professors at Northwestern merely underscores the extent to which this nonsense has mutated out of control. This kind of thing is funny so long as it is happening to someone else. But if a tenured, liberal, feminist professor can be the subject of a state-sanctioned lynching like this then no one on campus is safe. She has been exonerate for now but who knows if the complainants will seek a re-match.
Enter Josh Marshall of TPM. Thoughts on The Kipnis Clown Show and the Drama of University Life.
When I was reading Kipnis’s follow-up discussing the Title IX investigation into her article she references a blog post at Huffington Post, written by a grad student at Northwestern, attacking her article whose author seemed to know a great deal about the Title IX complaints which led to the probe in question. The writing Kipnis described seemed so deeply clownish that I couldn’t believe it wasn’t a hyperbolic and overdone description.
So I read it. It wasn’t. Several times when reading it I genuinely wondered it wasn’t parody. Here it is. It’s well worth reading yourself.
This is a PhD candidate in the university’s philosophy department writing this. And it’s in earnest. For a second, I thought is that some latter-day homage to Alan Sokal’s infamous hoaxon post-modernism and cultural studies. But no! It’s real.
Beyond the underbrush of the overwrought university student life drama, here we have the legal strictures and emotional dynamics of a sexual assault investigation jumping the fences out into a public discussion about sex, sexual assault and due process in university life and life generally. Indeed, we are seeing some of what we saw in the preschool child sex abuse panics in the 80s (McMartin, et al.) wherein advocates create an air-tight logical box in which any evidence challenging a particular accusation actually reinforces the validity of the accusation rather than casting doubt on it.
I agree with Marshall, you really have to read the idiocy in that HuffPo post to appreciate the deranged mind Kipnis was up against.
Put aside, for the moment, the sure knowledge that had Kipnis had the misfortune to be a straight, white, conservastive, male professor (I know, I know, there aren’t any of those out there, but play along) that Marshall would be on the sidelines in this. The fact that this kind of stupidity created criticism by Marshall may very well indicate we have reached the high water mark of the ascendancy of Title IX as an extra-judicial, indeed an extra-Constitutional, force on our nation’s campuses.
The next president, assuming the Americans win in 2016, has to be gutting this pernicious and malicious law that allows rule and intimidation by feminist lynch mobs.