A Response to Daily Nous (guest post by Laura Kipnis)


The following is a guest post* by Laura Kipnis, professor in Northwestern University’s School of Communication. Professor Kipnis wrote an opinion piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe,” in which she argued against certain policies and attitudes regarding sexual relations between faculty and students. In doing so, she referred to two Title IX  cases at Northwestern involving students and a philosophy professor at Northwestern. Two graduate students then filed Title IX complaints against Professor Kipnis, on grounds that her discussion of the cases appeared to constitute retaliation. The university investigated the complaint, a process Professor Kipnis described in a second article for the Chronicle, “My Title IX Inquisition.” These articles were discussed previously at Daily Nous in a post by me and a guest post by one of the complainants. In what follows, Professor Kipnis responds to these posts.


A Response to Daily Nous
by Laura Kipnis

So much has been written about the Title IX complaints against me and the recent Chronicle essay I wrote discussing them that I haven’t tried to keep up, let alone respond to inaccuracies, which have been plentiful. I also generally don’t respond to critics: people are allowed to disagree or say what they want about what I write; I’d rather think about the next article than defend the previous ones. There’s only so much you can control in the world, and what people say about what you write isn’t one of them.

But I do want to correct the misimpression created by “Anonymous” that the Title IX cases against me had to do, primarily, with factual inaccuracies. It’s irritating to read something inaccurate that’s purporting to combat inaccuracy.

I made a few small, insubstantial factual errors—of the sort corrected every day in newspapers like the New York Times—in trying to condense the publically available documents about various lawsuits involving Professor Ludlow down to two paragraphs.

These were the errors I made: I mistakenly referred to a current graduate student as a “former” graduate student, because she was referred to in the past tense in a legal filing: “was a graduate student at the time.”  (I didn’t, at the time, know the name of student in question.) The Chronicle article, which was supposed to be published in March, went online a few days early, on February 27; I’d written about a legal decision as taking place “last month”—i.e. in February—thinking the issue date would be March. This was one of the inaccuracy charges. Another error was my writing that “several” lawsuits by the undergraduate in the Ludlow case had been thrown out. At the time, one suit had been thrown out, one had not been allowed to proceed, and there had also been an unsuccessful attempt to get financial restitution. Another suit was pending an outcome. Keeping track of the status of these various cases was difficult as there was no master chronology available, and I was trying to collate information from different sources. The Chronicle ran a correction stating that one suit had been thrown out, not several.

But other facts are in contention: the professor used the word “dating” to describe his relationship with a graduate student in his defamation suit; I thus used the word “dating” in my piece. The Chronicle later added this clarification: “It would be more accurate to say that he had dated her according to his complaint.”  To be clear, I wasn’t trying to speak to the precise nature of the relationship between the complainant and the professor—which was and is in contention—so much as trying to use the most innocuous word available to characterize the disputed situation.

This speaks to my purpose in writing about the case of the graduate student and the professor, which is at the crux of the Title IX complaints. My intention was not to write about that case. I’ve been accused of conflating the two cases against Ludlow, that of the undergraduate and that of the graduate student. I didn’t. The undergrad’s case had been extensively written about and commented on; that was the case I chose to write about. As far as the graduate student, there were seven words about her in the essay: “a former grad student he previously dated”; this occurs when I list various parties the professor sued for defamation.

Let me explain why I didn’t say more about the case. The only account I had access to was the professor’s. Though all the information I drew on was in the public record, there was also a lot of private (and unverifiable) information about the graduate student’s life that I had no desire to comment on, or further circulate, even though the student wasn’t named. Once again, most of the facts and sexual allegations were—and are—in contention. To write about the complexities of that situation would have taken an article in itself, even if I’d been able to interview both parties involved, which I wasn’t. And I would have had to write both sides of the story, not one. But it also wasn’t my purpose to write a reported piece on this case; I was writing two paragraphs in an essay that took on many additional subjects.

The irony of the Title IX complaints is that the complainants somehow completely misread swathes of my essay that had nothing whatsoever to do with the graduate student’s case—along with a subsequent tweet—as referring to the grad student. The Title IX investigators painstakingly verified that these were misreadings, following a 72 day investigation. Their additional finding was that whatever errors I made in the piece were both minor and unintentional, and more importantly, could not be construed, by a “reasonable person,” as either retaliatory or creating a chilling effect on anyone’s ability to report sexual misconduct.

As to my refusing to correct those errors, this is simply wrong. I never refused, because I wasn’t aware of the errors until the Chronicle got emails from people speaking on behalf of “Anonymous.” Let me explain. I got hundreds of emails after the first Chronicle essay, and it took me weeks to read through them. Also, I have to confess that I simply don’t read emails from angry readers, as the ones to me on behalf of “Anonymous” looked to be. (If you publish on controversial topics you get a certain amount of angry email.) I glance at the first line, then file them—fair notice to all those who plan to email angry things to me about this post.

I understand why the complainants wish I’d written the essay from their perspective rather than my own. And I better understand, after reading through the two 60-page reports on the case—as I was permitted to do once the case was resolved—some of the negative feelings my essays may have provoked. I even understand why, once “My Title IX Inquisition” came out (to generally positive response), the complainants might now want to dial back on the specifics of their charges, which look even more extreme in retrospect. The bottom line is that bringing Title IX complaints over exceedingly minor errors in a publication you disagree with and naming them “retaliation” is an abuse of the process. To then keep on pressing a bad case in public even after it’s been arbitrated and you’ve been told you’re wrong, is worthy of a correction.

For the record, I don’t think I’m any sort of victim, and I do think the Title IX process worked, though after a massive waste of resources. (I’m guessing 75K or more in legal fees, having now seen the reports.) As far as the Ludlow cases, I think the Title IX process was even more flawed there than in my situation—in both cases, according to documents in the public record, rulings were made on the basis of policies that didn’t exist; rulings were made based on facts that weren’t in evidence. The rules of evidence were arbitrary. I can’t comment on the outcomes because I don’t have access to the complete files, but when I wrote that students have the power to derail a professor’s career these days, I meant that the vectors of power have shifted, which is patently true, not that some careers shouldn’t be derailed.

As I wrote in a letter to the Chronicle in April, I wasn’t trying to defend Ludlow’s “dating” career in the original essay. My own opinion is that any professor who dates students these days is risking professional suicide, though that doesn’t change my critique of consensual relations codes. I think there’s also a lot more to say, and say more honestly, about the allures of power and charisma in these kinds of situations. Desire isn’t only the preserve of professors; let’s not forget that students are agents too, and unequal power can be the basis of attraction. Meaning the situations that arise aren’t black and white—not melodramas, in other words (darkness vs. light is one of melodrama’s big motifs). But I actually had other targets in mind than who dates whom or this professor: I was writing about an academic culture that misunderstands power and magnifies students’ sense of vulnerability.

Nothing I’ve learned during this drawn-out process changes my mind about that culture: the effects of this style of thinking are disastrous, personally and intellectually, for students. The extravagant misreading of my original Chronicle essay, as detailed in the reports, convinces me of that more than anything.


[Note to commenters: Comments are moderated, as per the comments policy. See here.]

[Additional note to commenters: speculation as to the veracity of any of the parties involved in the cases under discussion, or about whether any of the relevant events under discussion took place, greatly increases the chances of your comment not being approved.]

 

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anon grad student
anon grad student
5 years ago

What a mess. And what a slippery slope, from feminist provocateur to alleged retaliator.Report

anonymous
anonymous
5 years ago

I bet only very naive people would think university procedures cannot be improved. The school decided to take up the students complaints, correct? Title IX officers hear far more complaints than they pursue. That said, when you write about the joys of dating and bring up a rape accusation at the very start, you must see how the readers who knew you *must know* it was a rape allegation would get confused as to what in the world you were saying. Yes, this would be a very small percentage of readers, but I’d have to say it was an unmistakable implication for them. And then when you call all of the cases “melodrama” (in the original essay, that came right after the example where you only focused on Ludlow’s students) you can see how anyone would think the rape allegation was something you were weighing in on. To add that “dating is not rape” clarified the impression anyone who knew of the Ludlow cases would have gotten from your essay. Because you knew that there a rape allegation, and to just call that “dating” wouldn’t make sense to the MRA movement. And even with this new definition of melodrama, what you are saying about sexual harassment is still, forgive me, perfectly unclear.Report

anonymous
anonymous
5 years ago

And just in general– can someone lay out how they’d want due process for Title IX to work in contrast to criminal due process? Sometimes (and I’m not sure here) it can seem as if criticisms of “due process” have only criminal due process in mind.Report

DC
DC
5 years ago

Anonymous, the point is (as I see it) that even if you interpreted everything she wrote in the most uncharitable way possible (which a fair amount of people seemed to do), it still would not rise to the level of retaliation under Title IX — in fact, it wouldn’t even approach it. The attorneys involved came to the right decision but the fact that it was referred to them in the first place, and then took 72 days to complete, means something went profoundly wrong.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

I find a lot of detail to complain about here. For example, if Kipnis is so concerned that the facts about the complaints were in dispute, why didn’t she correct the assumption that the relationship between Ludlow and the grad student was consensual right away? Why did the Chronicle have to do it almost a month later (and only after the complaints were filed)? But the main motivating issue that seems to divide people on the two sides seems to be this (as pointed out also by various people in the other thread): whether it is important that your relationship to person you have accused of raping you is presupposed to have been established as consensual and romantic. My sympathies are with those who regard this as important — not “small” and “insubstantial”. I have no doubt that these errors are the sort that are “corrected every day” in the New York Times. But in Kipnis’ case, it was not in fact corrected — again — until a month later, even though, as Kipnis herself notes, she was made aware of the problem after the Chronicle received the relevant emails. I don’t know how to reconcile differences with people who do not regard this assumption as important to avoid, especially given that Kipnis keeps thinking that this case indicates something important about faculty/student dating, that she keeps saying that she doesn’t want to judge Ludlow’s “dating” career, etc. — all of which assumes that it’s Ludlow’s dating career that anyone is complaining about. Whether this all amounts to something worthy of a Title IX complaint is not something I can judge, but the repeated claim that it’s a very small point that Ludlow’s relationship with the graduate student shouldn’t be just presupposed as romantic and consensual is bizarre to me. This is especially so since it is clearly one of Ludlow’s primary talking points in his lawsuit that there existed a romantic, consensual dating relationship. I feel bad even writing this, since I would imagine the graduate student is sick of people discussing the “relationship” at all.Report

anonymous
anonymous
5 years ago

DC: I agree it was not retaliation, I’m sorry if I was unclear myself. But it isn’t clear to me that the students who report to Title IX officers are ever asked to decide that. Schools request (and try to require) that complaints be taken to Title IX officers, no matter how minor. What Kipnis first wrote seems far more likely a libel issue, to me.

I’m just passing this along: Will Kipnis next explore the vast and misunderstood power that the lowest paid employees at corporations have against the suits, given that they can file EEO complaints? Who can we count on to overturn all those myths we so foolishly take to be true about power?Report

DC
DC
5 years ago

@[email protected]:
” whether it is important that your relationship to person you have accused of raping you is presupposed to have been established as consensual and romantic”
No, that’s not really characterizing the debate accurately; the question is whether accepting as fact a claim made by one party to the alleged relationship constitutes retaliation under Title IX. Nobody that I’ve seen has judged the existence or non-existence of the relationship as unimportant generally, but rather for the narrow purpose of constituting an element of retaliation under Title IX.

@[email protected]:
Well, I agree in this case you’re right, but I think as a general rule most people would agree that a student should at some level know what’s a legitimate complaint or not. To use a somewhat silly example, I don’t think any reasonable student would expect that they could file a Title IX complaint against a professor for sexual harassment, then file a second Title IX complaint against the same professor for retaliation for denying that harassment occurred. Yes, denying a charge could, in theory, dissuade others from coming forward in the future but no reasonable person of any age or experience should think that the second complaint was a reasonable one. Now obviously this current case is not like that, but I do think generally we can expect a minimum amount of critical evaluation on the part of the student for bringing their own charges. There seems to me to be a continuum of credibility of: (patently unreasonable to everyone)->(patently unreasonable to someone with more experience than a student)->(patently unreasonable to a Title IX coordinator)->(patently unreasonable to a practicing attorney). This wasn’t the first category, but was arguably the second, and definitely the third and fourth. In that regard I’ve changed my mind from thinking the students should have known that there was no reasonable basis for a Title IX investigation; I thought so before but as a lawyer I sometimes (unfairly) assume others know more about my field than I should legitimately expect. The fact that so many professional academics don’t seem to understand it changed my mind on that score.Report

Anne Jacobson
Anne Jacobson
5 years ago

You say you were raped. Chris, in a position that embodies power and authority in your organization, says you two were dating. Someone with similar power and authority in the organization writes an article in a nationally highly respected professional journal that complains about people like you who whine about sexual encounters with the powerful. She also uses Chris’s description.

As I understand it, this is retaliation if the writer’s actions would deter a reasonable person from making a similar complaint. Would it? That may depend on background knowledge. Can we assume that the reasonable person would recognize the overly familiar trope? What you thought was a horrific and life altering experience is treated like a locker room mistake. Honestly, it was just a shower. (Everyone gets this reference?). The adult gets to describe the situation.

Genuinely little kids often keep their mouths shut because, presumably, they don’t think they have any recourse, and if they do speak out they often are not believed. People in organizations often think they can just invoke the mechanisms of an organization, and they can secure some justice. But, as many people at the recent Hypatia/CSW conference were emphasizing, that’s not true. Complainers who go up against power can suffer still more injuries. A lot of people who have seen altogether too much of this sort of damage being done to very vulnerable people could see in Kipnis’s letter this agreement: “of course it was just a shower!”Report

Anon33
Anon33
5 years ago

To Anonymous (5): The answer to your question is very clearly stated in the post so it isn’t clear why you insisted that its absence is something to complain about. Please read the following paragraph from the OP:

“As to my refusing to correct those errors, this is simply wrong. I never refused, because I wasn’t aware of the errors until the Chronicle got emails from people speaking on behalf of “Anonymous.” Let me explain. I got hundreds of emails after the first Chronicle essay, and it took me weeks to read through them. Also, I have to confess that I simply don’t read emails from angry readers, as the ones to me on behalf of “Anonymous” looked to be.”Report

David Sobel
David Sobel
5 years ago

In explaining why she characterized the relationship between the student and the professor as “dating” Kipnis writes “the professor used the word “dating” to describe his relationship with a graduate student in his defamation suit; I thus used the word “dating” in my piece.” This seems to just admit that she accepted the uncorroborated characterization of the professor who was found guilty of harassment about the nature of the relationship between him and the student he was found to have harassed. That is a surprising choice and not good journalism. Kipnis also explains that she “wasn’t trying to speak to the precise nature of the relationship between the complainant and the professor—which was and is in contention—so much as trying to use the most innocuous word available to characterize the disputed situation.” But surely it is far from innocuous to just accept the characterization of the relationship based solely on the testimony of the man found guilty of sexual harassment. More innocuous, obviously, would have been to say that he claimed that they had dated. If Kipnis’s goal had been to provide the most innocuous words to characterize the situation, I think the latter surely would have been chosen.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Perhaps it is true that there was no retaliation here under the law, and that those well-versed in Title IX law could have seen this. But I doubt that when a student is coming forward to report a sexual assault, and is then told that retaliation is strictly prohibited, she takes to studying case law to find out exactly what this amounts to. I also take it that having your alleged rapist portrayed as one with whom you were in a dating relationship, where this clearly calls into question your credibility, does not at all seem like a “small, insubstantial factual error” when it is about you. When people reached out to Kipnis to point this out, the decent thing would have been to correct the record. We see that Title IX clearly cannot protect students from morally despicable behavior.
It is also worth noting that though Kipnis is trying to distance herself from the extent to which she relied on this particular case now, there is a clear reason it was included in the article in the first place: without it, where are all of these cases of the purported sexual paranoia she wants to draw our attention to? But if she corrected the record and let readers know that there was a professor on Northwestern’s campus found to have sexually harassed two different students, this would go a long way toward undermining her thesis that students are sexually paranoid. It was, then, clearly to Kipnis’s advantage to let the so-called “small, insubstantial factual errors” remain.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

DC: Some people seem to reason the way you’re saying. But many seem to be taking the supposed unimportance or triviality of the errors as part of an argument that a Title IX complain wasn’t justified. Here are some of the relevant quotes:

Leiter: “which the complainant believes were significant and harmful, but which seem to Kipnis (and many other readers, myself included) minor and largely beside the point”
Andy Metz (on the previous thread): “Kipnis not presenting both… characterization(s) was careless”
Ligurio: “I am confused. Kipnis’ factual errors seem to be 1. she wrote ‘dated’ instead of ‘claims to have dated’ with respect to the graduate student… Is that right?”
nybearfan: “There is absolutely no evidence, real or imagined, of any tangible harm Kipnis’s article, errors and all, has or could plausibly have caused… And of course the errors themselves barely register as errors at all.”

If you can interpret these claims (and others like them) as really saying, “Kipnis’ errors were appalling and extremely important to correct, but still not grounds for a Title IX complaint because not retaliatory” then your adherence to the principle of charity is more robust than mine.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Anon33: other errors were corrected. This was the important one. The error was described in multiple public letters, in addition to the emails to the Chronicle. Given Kipnis’ continued references to Ludlow’s “dating life,” I reserve the right to be skeptical of Kipnis’ defense, here.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Prof. Kipnis, the students who filed complaints should apologize for filing frivolous complaints. I don’t expect that will happen.

The sad thing is that when frivolous claims are made (such as what happened with Prof. Kipnis), or false allegations (such as “Jackie” at UVa and Emma Sulkowicz at Columbia), it does nothing to help survivors of sexual crimes on campus — in fact, it may very well hurt.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Anonymous — If you are going to quote me, please quote the entire line, not “cherry pick” as you did here.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

My apologies, Andy Metz. So you do think Kipnis’ errors were egregious and harmful, even though not quite of the sort to warrant a Title IX claim? It sounds like Kipnis should at least apologize, then.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
Reply to  Anonymous
5 years ago

Anonymous — You have COMPLETELY MISREPRESENTED what I said. Here is the full text:

“My observation is that Prof. Kipnis would have been better served had she not referenced a controversy at her school. I don’t say that because she lacks a First Amendment right to comment on the Ludlow case. It’s just that 1) people in her community would read it and could approach her words subjectively rather than objectively; and 2) administrators really hate it when their institutions are seen in the least bit of a negative or controversial light. That being said, I am hard-pressed to see anything so upsetting in either of her essays to warrant a Title IX investigation to begin with, let alone any sanctions (which, fortunately did not happen at this point). I have seen far more misrepresentations of things she wrote (as her opining in her second essay that she “didn’t know” if the graduate students’ essay in the Huffington Post hurting their job prospects) Kipnis threatened their job prospects) than examples in her essays that could be construed as upsetting.

My concern is that the actions Northwestern’s administration are going to lead to further controversies unless they start being more balanced here. I have no problems with the students filing the complaints (though it appears that only one really even had standing to do so). But, the complaints should have been dismissed based on their lack of merit.

Of more concern, though, is how Northwestern has been dealing with student protests over Ludlow and Kipnis. Having a protest is a protected speech. If students wanted to protest outside the classroom buildings where Ludlow and Kipnis teach, fine. But, if the protest was to happen in the classroom where an instructor is to teach, that protest becomes disruptive behavior and can be sanctioned — and should. The protesters should not have the right to deprive the students of the instruction that they have paid for. The fact that Northwestern did not prohibit — or really even discourage such behavior — is really troublesome.

I’d like to say that all’s well that ends well, but given the trouble that Prof. Kipnis was put through, that statement would not be true.”

I find taking quotes way out of context to be highly offensive. This happened too many times to Prof. Kipnis, as well as her defenders, such as myself.

You lied about what I said, Anonymous. I deserve an apology, though, based on your behavior here, I am not holding my breath.Report

John
John
5 years ago

This letter seems to confuse “Anonymous” who wrote the previous letter published here with the other student, who the emails Kipnis received were on behalf of. “Anonymous” said in their letter that they were not one of the women involved in the underlying situation.Report

Justanotherprof
Justanotherprof
5 years ago

The situation between Ludlow and the grad student is as far from clear as anything can get. So absolute statements that Kipnis was factually incorrect are on unsteady ground. It would have been much better in terms of journalistic practice for Kipnis to put in the “claimed to” from the start, but that still doesn’t clear up whether it was “inaccurate’ or, if so, how serious it was.

Even if we go all in and say that Kipnis was “factually inaccurate” in saying that the two once dated (despite us not knowing if that is the case), how does that constitute retaliation? A factual inaccuracy is not retaliation. Choosing to believe another version of contested events is not retalation. Kipnis never stated a conclusion over whether the graduate student had been sexually assaulted. (Contra the Anonymous letter a few days ago, it perfectly possible for a relationship to start as consensual and then become abusive, so even assuming a previous dating history does not rule out sexual harassment or assault). This whole mess has really only accomplished one thing: it has damaged Title IX by stretching it past any reasonable reading.Report

Joe
Joe
5 years ago

I share David Sobel’s reaction to this piece: total befuddlement as to how Kipnis could claim that she was following good journalistic (or moral!) practice. I did three years of J-School, and in my department, reporting a defendant’s descriptions as factual information would have been an instant F on an assignment. There is no question that is was bad journalism: I’m fairly confident that any journalism professor who has taught legal reporting will back me up on this one.

Imagine: LA TIMES, Sep 4, 1994: “Today, OJ Simpson was arrested for Murder. O.J., who did not even own a weapon or a pair of black gloves, and who loved his wife very much, will face his first court date in the new year.”

As to the moral question, this was a factual misrepresentation of the sort that triggers an instant exoneration in the minds of a huge number of people. There shouldn’t have been an IX investigation. But Kipnis deserves all the reprimands she’s getting, in particular for her extraordinary inability to see that a serious error in judgment was made.Report

Justanotherprof
Justanotherprof
5 years ago

@17 John
I don’t think she’s confusing them. Anonymous said that “multiple people” emailed Kipnis following the first article, and probably in support of Anonymous’s claim that the article was inaccurate. Sounds like a coordinated writing campaign, which is pretty par for the course when one thinks a mistake or injustice has happened.Report

Monica
Monica
5 years ago

“Let me explain why I didn’t say more about the case. The only account I had access to was the professor’s. Though all the information I drew on was in the public record, there was also a lot of private (and unverifiable) information about the graduate student’s life that I had no desire to comment on, or further circulate, even though the student wasn’t named. Once again, most of the facts and sexual allegations were—and are—in contention. To write about the complexities of that situation would have taken an article in itself, even if I’d been able to interview both parties involved, which I wasn’t. And I would have had to write both sides of the story, not one. But it also wasn’t my purpose to write a reported piece on this case; I was writing two paragraphs in an essay that took on many additional subjects.”

Dear author, I am not sure what to make of your writing. You mentioned and referred to a case that you actually didn’t want to talk about.(?!!) So why did you mention it at all in a piece that was already painfully long? Why did you choose the subjects that you chose if they didn’t serve to exemplify the culture of sexual paranoia on NU campus (or other campuses)?

” [..] a lot of private (and unverifiable) information about the graduate student’s life that I had no desire to comment on.” – I’m glad you have no desire to comment on it. Maybe you should even stop mentioning it as well. Or is finding out about graduate student’s life something that cultural critics do for fun?

I’ve just reread your first opinion piece in CHE. Almost all of your “subjects” are presented in less than a flattering light (from your oversensitive undergrads, to other cases made available to us by Google, to people who compose emails about Title IX, and people who play with change in their pockets). Complexities aside, the only person who is above and beyond this infant-like behaviour, the only one who can pierce through the melodrama with her Freudian lenses and see the depth (and reality?) of human relationships is yourself. I am not sure what your writing says about your ego- but in all honesty, I don’t want to know.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Andy Metz, that wasn’t the comment I was quoting from. I was quoting from this paragraph: “In the case of the graduate student, Kipnis not presenting both Ludlow’s characterization of the relationship and the graduate student’s was careless. But, it should also be pointed out that this careless was barely mentioned, and certainly had far less prominence than the discussion of the undergraduate’s case. Again, the university did not find that Ludlow had assaulted the graduate student, but had crossed the lines of what was appropriate between individuals of differing levels of power.” I don’t see how my quote constitutes a “lie” about what you said.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Anonymous — it was a lie because I never characterized it as egregious, and because the careless here was in terms of not taking enough care to be more specific.

You wanted to use part of my quote to make a point. You ended up misquoting me. This happened numerous times to Prof. Kipnis.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Shorter Kipnis: “I’m not guilty of retaliation! I’m guilty of massive journalistic malpractice that you MISTOOK for retaliation.”Report

Try Harder
Try Harder
5 years ago

“other facts are in contention: the professor used the word “dating” to describe his relationship with a graduate student in his defamation suit; I thus used the word “dating” in my piece. (…) [I was] trying to use the most innocuous word available to characterize the disputed situation.”

So, the facts are in contention. Among the facts in contention: whether or not the two were actually dating. It’s Ludlow’s contention the two dated, not the graduate student’s. Thus to use the term dating is for that piece of the article to endorse Ludlow’s version of what happened, something which is not innocuous in response to contention. Likewise it is contentious whether or not ‘they dated/they did not date’ is a minor matter or not.Report

Try Harder
Try Harder
5 years ago

That’s a smart reservation. Especially given her recent statement that “what is defined as assault or rape, the boundaries have really stretched and so that sexual episodes that might once have been considered ambivalent sex are now getting re-construed as assault.” That doesn’t sound like disinterest in talking about specific cases. That sounds like a claim that sexual assault, in what she thinks is a correct and non-overstretched definition of the term, did not occur. http://www.npr.org/2015/06/07/412633543/laura-kipnis-the-boundaries-of-assault-have-stretchedReport

Anon, untenured prof.
Anon, untenured prof.
5 years ago

First, I find it very hard to believe that Kipnis thinks it’s innocuous to characterize a relationship between a person accused of sexual assault and the person accusing him of assault as a consensual romantic relationship (“dating”). Even if this is a point of contention between the parties in a lawsuit and even if it’s only briefly mentioned in her article, Kipnis should recognize this is a serious and potentially very harmful mistake. She should acknowledge that, take responsibility for her mistake, and do everything she can to correct it. It seems to me like she’s avoiding that issue rather than dealing with it.

Second, Kipnis accuses the complainants of misrepresenting their concerns. She claims that they weren’t really interested in correcting the factual mistakes she made. Is she implying they were abusing the Title IX process to punish and silence her? Does she provide any evidence of that? Kipnis suggests the investigators’ findings support her accusation, because the investigators say the complainants misinterpreted her article. Even if that were true, I don’t see how it would support Kipnis’ claim that the complainants were not primarily concerned about her factual errors. It seems to me they were concerned about the effects of her factual errors, which could be serious. And that doesn’t strike me as an unreasonable concern. (Whether a Title IX complaint is the appropriate way of addressing those concerns is a separate issue, but I don’t think it should be ruled out without an investigation).Report

Ligurio
Ligurio
5 years ago

I would like, along with Andy Metz (who I don’t know from Adam), to correct “Anonymous'” account of my comment on the original thread. I was simply asking a question. There was both a lot of criticism of Kipnis on other grounds and criticism of her factual inaccuracies. I was merely trying to make sure that I understood what all parties took these “factual” inaccuracies to be. You can believe me or not. I don’t really care. In any case, I now think there is no actual agreement even on these basic points of fact. No wonder why nobody answered my question.Report

Ligurio
Ligurio
5 years ago

Let me add, in response to Monica’s last, that it doesn’t correspond to the actual reaction large numbers of academics (including myself) had upon reading Kipnis’ piece. My response was in part “you go girl! ” and in part “holy shit she’s actually naming the thing!” I think that’s what a lot of people thought. I *know * that’s what a lot of my friends thought, and we disagree about all sorts of shit.

I think this might come down to the difference between people who think that University administrations and their procedures are ever the sort of thing that you can trust, and people who think that they are just not that sort of thing.Report

anonymous
anonymous
5 years ago

Ligurio, you thought “you go girl” and “she’s actually naming the thing” when she implied dating cannot involve rape? Or did you not know of the graduate student’s allegation against Ludlow? And are you also against complaints to the EEO generally or is it just complaints concerning Title IX to which you object?Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Anonymous — I will not answer for Ligurio, but, as for myself, I am all for complaints, if the complaints are legitimate. These complaints amounted to finding fault with Kipnis that she dared talk about the Title IX process, and, in doing so, dared throw any doubts onto the charges brought by the students against Ludlow. Kipnis called out a process for which the only thing that counts is the seriousness of the charge, not the actual veracity of the charge itself. And, that does no one — including survivors of campus sexual assault — any good.Report

anonymous
anonymous
5 years ago

Ligurio, it’s not just about the trustworthiness of university administrations (though that’s clearly a problem here). It also comes down to people who think it’s okay to further damage a victim of alleged rape by intimating that her charges are false, and those who think there’s something deeply wrong with that. Or those who think that Kipnis should stick to her guns no matter what, and those who think a dose of humility and an apology might better befit a member of the faculty.Report

Alex
Alex
5 years ago

that quote still did nothing to dispel anonymous’ point that you found the errors in the article to be minuscule and unimportant, as opposed to genuinely problematic but not warranting a retaliation case.Report

DC
DC
5 years ago

@25:”‘Shorter Kipnis: “I’m not guilty of retaliation! I’m guilty of massive journalistic malpractice that you MISTOOK for retaliation.”
I agree she should have clarified that it was by Ludlow’s account rather than as a general statement of fact — I think Kipnis recognizes that at this point as well — but I also think people have really forgotten that it is not a piece of reporting but rather an opinion piece and Kipnis is not a journalist, and failing to clarify that one piece of information (which is not the main focus of the article) is based on the account of one person does not, in my opinion, constitute “massive journalistic malpractice” (and even if it did, “massive journalistic malpractice” is not the same thing as Title IX retaliation).

@29:”In any case, I now think there is no actual agreement even on these basic points of fact. No wonder why nobody answered my question”
It hasn’t been, though I think we should respect the student’s privacy; since I still think even if it was inaccurate it couldn’t constitute retaliation, there’s no need to ever determine whether it was true or not.

@31: “Ligurio, you thought “you go girl” and “she’s actually naming the thing” when she implied dating cannot involve rape?”
Is the anger over Kipnis’ essay really based on the completely inaccurate belief that she implied dating cannot involve rape? From a feminist scholar who has explicitly written in her academic work about how state recognizance of both marital rape and date rape was a hugely beneficial thing to women?Report

AdjunctProf
AdjunctProf
5 years ago

As I understand it, there were two charges of sexual assault against Ludlow. One was from an undergraduate, whom he allegedly fondled, and one was from a graduate student whom, according to her, he raped.
Above, Kipnis writes:
“I’ve been accused of conflating the two cases against Ludlow, that of the undergraduate and that of the graduate student. I didn’t. The undergrad’s case had been extensively written about and commented on; that was the case I chose to write about. As far as the graduate student, there were seven words about her in the essay: “a former grad student he previously dated”; this occurs when I list various parties the professor sued for defamation”
In her original piece, Kipnis wrote:
“The professor sued for defamation various colleagues, administrators, and a former grad student whom, according to his complaint, he had previously dated; a judge dismissed those suits this month. He sued local media outlets for using the word “rape” as a synonym for sexual assault—a complaint thrown out by a different judge who said rape was an accurate enough summary of the charges, even though the assault was confined to fondling, which the professor denies occurred…. What a mess. And what a slippery slope, from alleged fondler to rapist. ”
Perhaps the media outlets and the judge were allowing ‘rape’ to be used as a synonym exclusively for the first accusation rather than the second. And perhaps they should be questioned for doing this. But Ludlow was accused of rape, by anyone’s definition, by a person mentioned just above. For all I know, the media outlets and the judge may have been referring to this second case. If that’s the case, then Kipnis is clearly conflating the two cases so as to accuse the media and the judge as overreaching with their terms. If they were only referring to the first case, then I don’t see why mentioning the graduate student and her alleged relationship with Ludlow, whatever it may be, is relevant at all. People unaware of the second charge would be in no danger of conflating those cases, but anyone aware of them would have to read quite closely to avoid the impression that Kipnis was trying to dismiss the graduate student’s charge of rape by bringing up the alleged consensual relationship.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Anonymous — “It also comes down to people who think it’s okay to further damage a victim of alleged rape by intimating that her charges are false, and those who think there’s something deeply wrong with that.” Nothing like an ad hominem attack.

How about it comes down to those who believe in freedom of speech, and those who do not?

Kipnis has nothing to apologize for, though the students who filed the Title IX complaints certainly do.

As for you, Anonymous (not willing to back up opinions under your own name), your misquoting folks and using tortured analogies is not exactly helping the discussion here.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

BTW, for those interested, from the Chronicle:

“Laura Kipnis, whose essay “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe” sparked two Title IX complaints against her, will be hosting a live Q&A on our Facebook page today at 2 p.m., Eastern time. Visit our page (and like us while you’re there!) this afternoon to submit questions for the hourlong chat.”Report

Seriously?
Seriously?
5 years ago

Academics in action –which I presume most of the commentators on this matter to be — can be quite an interesting lot to behold. Where else can you observe such intolerance parading as high minded moral sanctimony? Where else can you observe such an utter lack of intellectual seriousness and honesty being disguised as the very opposite of itself?It’s a spectacle worthy of the best propagandist. Just like the best propaganda it parades as rational discourse, when it’s really nothing of the kind.

Such unintended irony on display here. I say this because many of the critics of Kipnis actually lend unexpected weight to her central claim. Let’s just take one example. Several people upthread castigate Kipnis for making the “egregious and harmful” error of using the world ‘date’ in describing the relationship between Ludlow and his victim. No doubt a good journalist would have said ‘allegedly date” instead of the flat out ‘date.’ Maybe there is some standard by which that error counts as “egregious” but, frankly, as “harmful” go, this one seems to me, quite frankly, small potatoes.

Call me callously indifferent to the alleged victims alleged suffering, but even taken in the least charitable way possible, this supposedly egregious error seems to me to signify almost nothing. Contrary to Anonymous # 33 who says “It also comes down to people who think it’s okay to further damage a victim of alleged rape by intimating that her charges are false” — though by the way #33 if the rape is alleged shouldn’t the victim be alleged to? — the use that terribly damaging word ‘date’ does not tend to either prejudice the case against the alleged victim’s claim that she was raped by Ludlow nor to prejudice the case for that claim. Since we all know — don’t we — that a date can turn to rape in an instant. (My boyfriend raped me! But how could he since he was your boyfriend? Who doesn’t regard that as laughable argument these days?)

Isn’t what is at issue between Ludlow and his accuser the question whether he raped her not the question whether they dated each other? But if that’s the question at issue between them, what assignable “harm” has been done by the use of the word ‘date’ rather than the use of the phrase ‘allegedly date’. Call me obtuse, call me callous, but I frankly don’t get it. The alleged victim is harmed because …. because …. somebody with “power” wrote something that in no way prejudiced the issue in contention between herself and her adversary . that did what exactly …. piss her off? But why did it piss her off so much …. She felt she was being taken lightly, she felt rape was being taken lightly? Really?

How can you be so oblivious, I can hear someone saying. It’s the very thought– or at least the expression of the thought — that she might have actually been dating the perpetrator of the alleged rape did the damage. That sort of thought is intrinsically damaging? Don’t you see? After all, everybody knows that if you’ve been dating a guy, he can’t possibly have raped you. Nah, that can’t be it. No intellectually serious person believes that anymore, if they ever did. Do they?

Ah but you forget that it used to be enshrined in law in certain countries that a wife could not be raped by her husband, that consent once is consent always. Perhaps Kipnis was harkening back to such times and such places. Perhaps she is some sort of reactionary, that only parades as a feminist. Yeah, right! Exactly!

Seriously, when I try to see into the opaque mind set beneath the sanctimonious, intellectually dishonest “thinking” that drives the blather that’s been written about Kipnis, the best I can come up with is that she actually got elements of the mindset pretty much right. Students are being infantilized and denied agency by the current let’s call it representational culture on campus — a representational culture promoted by no doubt well meaning faculty and administrators who are out to protect them from power asymmetries. Not that she doesn’t appreciate the good intentions. But she sees unintended effects. Whether she’s right or wrong is worth serious debate — of which I have heard exactly zero.

Recall that her initial complaints weren’t really about Title IX itself — though she did poke fun at the fellow who conducted her sexual harassment training and did admit to being a naughty student during those sessions. Her complaints were “triggered” — to use another word she pokes fun at — by the much more recent wave of new codes, including, very recently, at her own campus, prohibiting consensual relationships between what are, after all, adults. Her central claim, as I recall, was that these new codes further infantilize students by representing them as having a sort of fragile and diminished agency. She thinks that by representing adult students as fragile and diminished in this way, we do them a disservice. We fail to prepare them for the messiness of life beyond the academy.

It’s certainly a debatable point. Not one that I necessarily agree with. I tend to want Universities to be safe places for students. And in safe places you do try to restrict forces that operate outside the safe place. Safe places are decidedly not the real world. They are not supposed to be.

But I’m willing to entertain the thought that maybe we’ve gone too far in constructing the safe place. And that’s what Kipnis was really asking us to do.

In intellectual fairness to her — which few of her critics bother with — (intellectual fairness being so last century, I guess) — she does seem to get a certain widely held view about student-professor relations more or less right. And the reaction to her claims sort of show that she’s gotten more or less right. Because right here on this thread students are being represented as so fragile, so vulnerable to the representational power of the almighty professor that they must be shielded from thoughts like the one’s Kipnis expressed. A mere passing thought of no central importance to her overall argument — that the alleged victim of a rape might have been dating her alleged rapist — becomes an assault, a piling on further violation, and an abuse of representational power.

I do not doubt that there could be a really interesting, intellectually serious discussion around the pro’s and cons of Kipnis’s ideas. That might actually be enlightening. But the sort of adolescent moral posturing backed by endlessly confused what I am tempted to call blather on the part of her critics isn’t that.Report

Richard Hanley
Richard Hanley
5 years ago

Anonymous (31) asks a rhetorical question, but in doing so seems to claim that Kipnis’s article “implied dating cannot involve rape.” Is that what you claim, Anonymous (31)?
DC (35) asks rhetorical questions in response. In case there is any doubt (no offense, DC, but misinterpretation is rife around here), let me state unequivocally that it is utterly false that Kipnis’s article implies that dating cannot involve rape.Report

anonymous
anonymous
5 years ago

Andy Metz, I just don’t see how the students found fault for Kipnis because “she dared talk about the Title IX process.” That is what Kipnis is just teasing that we *may find* to be the case, but the students themselves (and Kipnis above) report that the issue was over her use of rape allegations in a story about the benefits of professors and students dating. Seems like you are taking us back in time. (Furthermore, her first essay was not “about Title IX.” She admits in her second essay she didn’t even realize retaliation was a part of Title IX. She is admitting she know precious little about Title IX.)
And I worry that people who describe Title IX as requiring(? Involving?) “a process for which the only thing that counts is the seriousness of the charge, not the actual veracity of the charge itself,” need to provide some evidence for the claim and evidence that INCLUDES reference to the methods and merits of other EEO processes (they don’t differ much). Lawyers who handle these cases in and out of house would be a good resource. Otherwise, complaints like yours depend on Ludlow being innocent, don’t they?Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Well said [email protected] This spectacle is like a performance-art project proving Kipnis’ argument.Report

Jon Trerise
Jon Trerise
5 years ago

Seems clear that it was a grave error to name the relationship in Ludlow’s terms. This is what the majority of comments thus far (here) have held, reasonably (it seems to me).

Does this constitute retaliation? I’m not a lawyer, but I think that Anne Jacobsen’s post (#8, above) needs to be pitted against justanotherprof’s (#19).

Jacobsen notes that (she understands that) it’s retaliation if a reasonable person would be deterred from filing a complaint b/c of the putative retaliatory behavior. So, would Kipnis’ article deter a reasonable person from filing a complaint? Jacobsen seems to say yes, since (by analogy) it’s kind of like how children are deterred from seeking recourse because seeking recourse is discouraged in a variety of ways. Set aside the unfortunate analogy to children (we don’t want to infantilize complainants; no doubt Jacobsen did not intend this, though). This seems plausible; those harmed see their possible complaints as being mistrusted all the time, and so are deterred. Kipnis’ article, though intended not to deter real complainants, probably does, given the situation we are in.*

Justanotherprof says “A factual inaccuracy is not retaliation. Choosing to believe another version of contested events is not retalation. Kipnis never stated a conclusion over whether the graduate student had been sexually assaulted.” But it seems to me that Just… has neglected to countenance Jacobsen’s point. Kipnis’ doing what she did inclines people not to believe future complainants OR disinclines some to complain. It’s unfortunate that this is so (again b/c Kipnis likely didn’t intend this), but it is. This, I believe, is the legacy of sexual injustice–that we are all in a very difficult position regarding how to navigate these waters as we try to improve.

Historically, reprehensible behavior has gone unpunished as well as unacknowledged. Hence it is understandable why some people trust complainants as their default and try to marshal the forces of University EEO offices. And sometimes they go too far. It is also understandable why others are poised to defend those accused (or poised to critique a culture of “infantilism” or some such); we don’t want to curb due process or simply go too far in our search for justice. Historically this too has led to some pretty nasty places. But sometimes these, also, go too far. Navigating a middle ground here is very, very hard. Still I think we need to keep trying, and keep debating. For the moment, however, it seems we need to keep momentum on the side of rooting out the injustice, since it’s so very easy to sweep under the rug and (continue to) ignore. Perhaps we should be cautious and restrain our momentum, but we should keep it up.

*-If Jacobsen and others (and myself) are correct that there is a debatable sense in which this was retaliation, does that mean Kipnis should be punished? I sincerely don’t know. While again I think she was callous and insensitive, I don’t think her retaliation (if indeed it was that) was intentional. (That is, not all cases of retaliation should be treated the same way.)Report

Alex
Alex
5 years ago

I dunno. If you can’t see how the semantic distinction between “Kipnis made an honest mistake in the use of the word “dating,” which has an implication that could obviously be harmful to the student, but does not warrant a retaliation case,” vs. “Kipnis’ errors were miniscule and unimportant, and someone claiming to be raped overreacted in a shameful way,” is problematic in a really important way, then I fail to see how you could even remotely understand why this serious error (due to its implication) is problematic for some people.

@39 let’s not be indifferent to the alleged people’s alleged suffering.Report

Ligurio
Ligurio
5 years ago

Jon Trerise,

Isn’t it a problem that Anne Jacobsen’s argument works by eliding the difference between reasonable persons and children? The whole point about “children” is that they’re *not* held to be “reasonable persons” in the legal and (often) philosophical sense of the phrase. I mean, this is why children can’t *rationally* consent to sexual acts for Chrissakes. That we are now analogizing the behavior of children to gauge the behavior of reasonable persons shows how far off the rails we’ve come.Report

Seriously?
Seriously?
5 years ago

What is the “implication that could be harmful to the student?” You think there’s a background presupposition that if x and y are dating, then x cannot rape y? How backward of youReport

Ligurio
Ligurio
5 years ago

Anonymous#33,

You write that “It also comes down to people who think it’s okay to further damage a victim of alleged rape by intimating that her charges are false, and those who think there’s something deeply wrong with that.” I have two questions for you in response.

1. Do you believe that the word “dating” intimates that “her charges are false”?
2. Why?Report

Joe
Joe
5 years ago

Still waiting for “Seriously?” and his/her ilk to tell me that my Journalism profs were all completely out to lunch and that there is nothing wrong with reporting a defendant’s disputed description of a case as fact. They appear to have a very special insight into journalistic ethics that highly-trained, practicing and teaching journalists do not have. Extraordinary.

There is, I think, a serious failure to consider the distinction between what we, in our enlightened moments, know is true and what people in general are disposed to think. A jury, or people in general, are probably less likely to think that a rape occurred in the context of an ongoing consensual romantic relationship. That this is actually false is *not* what matters with respect to journalistic ethics.

I’d love for legal experts to weigh in on the following scenario. You’re the prosecutor for this kind of case. You’re engaged in the process of jury-selection. A potential juror takes the stand and opines: “They were dating. I know they were dating.” Would you admit this juror? Would any sane judge regard this potential juror as unbiased? If a legal expert weighs in here and answers these questions in the positive, then I hereby retract all of my claims.

Then again, perhaps this deference of mine–to journalism profs on matters of journalistic ethics, and to legal experts on matters of courtroom bias–is probably just a product of my own infantilization. Some kind of inability to think FOR MYSELF. Waaaaaah!Report

anonymous
anonymous
5 years ago

Ligurio, see Try Harder above. No one thinks you cannot be raped when dating. No one thinks Kipnis thinks that.
People think Kipnis was talking about Ludlow’s dating life. If you remember Kipnis talking about her tweets being monitored, one that included “dating is not rape” was taken, by those who knew about the rape allegations hidden in the original Chronicle piece, to mean that Kipnis was denying *the grad student was engaging in anything about melodrama over “ambiguous” sex.* Otherwise why would she not say “I am talking about the benefits of dating in this article, and when I bring up a rape allegation and call it “dating,” I do not mean to be suggesting Ludlow is one of those “non-harassers” around which I frame this long essay.” (And this is to assume the grad was dating Ludlow!)Report

DC
DC
5 years ago

@48:
“”Still waiting for “Seriously?” and his/her ilk to tell me that my Journalism profs were all completely out to lunch and that there is nothing wrong with reporting a defendant’s disputed description of a case as fact.”

I don’t know if qualify as his/her “ilk” or not, but I’ll give this a shot: I don’t think most people defending Kipnis are arguing that there is “nothing wrong” with failing to qualify her statement about dating, but rather that we don’t find convincing the argument that it was so massively egregious, or that characterization casts doubt on any of the student’s claims. Do you seriously think that whether they were dating or not impacts her claims? Do you really think the readership of the Chronicle of Higher Education are going to assume that it couldn’t have been rape if they are in a relationship? And I don’t think “disputed description” is accurate; “potentially disputed description” probably is more appropriate. And finally, as I’ve mentioned before, Kipnis is not a journalist; she is an academic who wrote an opinion piece. She was not trying to report on these events; she was using them as an example of what she thought might be symptomatic of them. I really don’t understand how some of our criticisms of an ideology that sees Title IX as a tool to govern public debate is constantly construed as an absolute defense on moral or ethical grounds of everything Kipnis wrote.

“I’d love for legal experts to weigh in on the following scenario. You’re the prosecutor for this kind of case. You’re engaged in the process of jury-selection. A potential juror takes the stand and opines: “They were dating. I know they were dating.” Would you admit this juror? Would any sane judge regard this potential juror as unbiased? If a legal expert weighs in here and answers these questions in the positive, then I hereby retract all of my claims.”

I don’t know if I qualify as a “legal expert” or not, but as a lawyer I’ll give this one a shot, too: your analogy is not really apt. Kipnis is not a juror and is not being called on by the court system to decide facts. A judge can exclude a biased juror, but that juror is allowed to go out and write an opinion piece saying she knew they were dating. That’s what we’re all up in arms about. Not that Kipnis was criticized or attacked, but rather this frightening belief that Title IX provides those who disagree with what you wrote to have you possibly punished under an incredibly overbroad definition of “retaliation.”Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Anonymous — The actual quote was: “Kipnis called out a process for which the only thing that counts is the seriousness of the charge, not the actual veracity of the charge itself.” The proof is this: The president of Northwestern was quoted as saying that because the students had complained, the university had no choice — no discretion — but to investigation. It did not matter that case on its face (Kipnis was retaliating against the students — that strains credulity!) was frivolous — an investigation had to move forward. So, truth did not matter here, only the charge.

And, no, complaints like mine do not depend on Ludlow being innocent. I do not know if he is innocent. I know that the whatever wrongs both the undergraduate and graduate students have suffered were allegedly caused by him, not Kipnis.

BTW, one unintended (I presume) outcome of all this is that a week ago, even after reading both of Kipnis’ Chronicle pieces, I had no idea who the graduate student was in all this mess. Now, because of all the coverage and comments and tweets, it is clear who that person is. I won’t identify because 1) there is a possibility (obviously likely not provable given prior investigations) her allegation against Ludlow is true; and 2) I really don’t want to go through a Title IX investigation for “retaliation.”Report

Justanotherprof
Justanotherprof
5 years ago

@Jon Terise
The problem with your approach to retaliation is that it does not in any way resemble retaliation as understood in Title IX or other precedents. But retaliation is something that materially harms a given individual adversely, and is done for the primary purpose of damaging the person who filed a complaint. Defining harm as “somewhere out there in the future, some hypothetical person might feel a vague sense of unease due to another person’s insensitivity” is absurd and renders the entire concept of retaliation utterly meaningless. It would mean that any statement that offends anyone for any reason can be construed as retaliation against someone somewhere for something.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
5 years ago

Andy [email protected]: “How about it comes down to those who believe in freedom of speech, and those who do not?
“Kipnis has nothing to apologize for, though the students who filed the Title IX complaints certainly do.”

Surely one can believe in freedom of speech and also believe that sometimes someone ought to apologize for exercising speech?

And since you’ve repeated the charge that Anonymous was misquoting you, it’s not clear how your comment at 24 bears on the question of why Anonymous’s quote at 12 mischaracterized your full comment, which Anonymous reproduced at 23.

Seriously? at 39/46: Are you denying that a victim of a crime (assuming for the sake of argument that a crime was committed) might reasonably be upset at having her relationship to the perpetrator mischaracterized, even if the mischaracterization does not entail that there was no crime?

In any case, since at 39 you call for serious debate on Kipnis’s original contention, I’ll oblige with a few points about her original article only:

Her apparent belief that it is “melodrama” to accuse someone of fondling someone who is too drunk to resist is inaccurate. That would be a sexual assault and a serious accusation. Her similar claim that the student’s claims of emotional distress are a “representation of emotion [that] plays to the gallery” show a profound lack of empathy for an alleged victim of sexual assault (also, I think, a profound ignorance of the sort of thing that you have to say when filing a lawsuit).

Her response to the sexual harassment trainer’s saying “Do not make unwanted sexual advances,” “But how do you know they’re unwanted until you try?” is rather jaw-dropping. If making an unwanted sexual advance toward one of your students is harassment, and you don’t know whether your advance would be unwanted, then maybe don’t try? What’s the risk of not making sexual advances that you don’t know to be wanted–that some professors and students might be deprived of the chance of wanted sex when the student had not made it clear that s/he would welcome sexual advances? Does this really outweigh the problems with professors making unwanted sexual advances just because they’re not sure they’re unwanted?

The account of the author who was sexually harassed by her editor (“Skyping her in his underwear from hotel rooms” and not actually reading her book) also shows a cold lack of empathy for the victims of sexual harassment. The editor was an acquaintance of hers who she saw as an unthreatening nebbish–but he clearly held a lot of power over the previously unpublished author, who could have faced professional and financial ruin (having to pay back her advance) if he rejected the manuscript. That her reaction to the episode is to think about how vulnerable the editor was, and that she describes the author as “imagin[ing]” that she was the only vulnerable person in the situation, really calls into doubt her appreciation of how nasty it can be to receive unwanted sexual advances from people who have power over you. And it’s a bit ironic that she thinks that university harassment codes leave women unprepared for dealing with situations like this, when it was only when the situation was framed at sexual harassment that the problem could be solved at all. (By the way, nice job using your national forum to mock another person who’d confided something to you!)

There’s more… but I’ve seen these issues discussed a lot of other places. If Kipnis’s original article hasn’t provoked as much reasoned debate on the merits, that’s because it doesn’t have many merits.Report

Ligurio
Ligurio
5 years ago

Anonymous50,

I certainly hope that “no one thinks that you cannot be raped when dating.” But Anon33 claims that Kipnis “intimat[ed] that [the graduate student’s] charges are false” and I can make no sense of this except as a comment about Kipnis’s use of the word “dating” in the article. Well, fine, so now it’s about the tweet. But nothing in her tweet speaks to her view of the charges *either*! I mean, it is *true* that “dating is not rape” even if we all agree that rape often–horribly, too frequently–occurs in consensual relationships. Why take Kipnis’ tweet as intending to single out this *one* instance when the whole force of her article was clearly directed toward the general point?! That seems ludicrous to me.Report

Ligurio
Ligurio
5 years ago

Matt Weiner,

You write:

“If Kipnis’s original article hasn’t provoked as much reasoned debate on the merits, that’s because it doesn’t have many merits.”

This is not, alas, the only inference one might draw.Report

Anonymity now
Anonymity now
5 years ago

Would those of you opposed to Kipnis please clarify something? I want to know if you would have anything to say against her original piece if she hadn’t erroneously made the two tangential errors everyone’s discussing. Maybe she should apologize for those errors and maybe she shouldn’t, but it sure looks like the real target here is her overall view. I’d bet the farm that none of you anti-Kipnis folks would be saying boo about these horrible errors she’s made if you didn’t have a big bone to pick with her for calling out victim culture. So I’d like to hear what you have to say against her attack on victim culture feminism. It at least seems interesting enough to discuss, and it was the whole point of her piece, but it’s getting lost in the noise. Thanks.Report

Monica
Monica
5 years ago

I have two bad news:
1. Dear menopausal ladies working at the universities, graduate students with personal lives, and oversensitive undergrads: Title IX is really what’s standing between you and your emotional maturity and full, healthy sexual life. Dear women in academia, I bet that, until you read Kipnis’s piece, you didn’t know how all that Title IX bureaucracy deprives you of the most precious, empowering, and validating experiences that there are: “hooking up with professors being more or less part of the curriculum”. Fear no more. Start flirting right now and notice how your career is advancing seemingly.
2. Dear academics in action, you didn’t know what you were doing until someone bestowed their gaze on your comments from their pedestal. Bad news. I bet you didn’t know it was just “intolerance parading as high minded moral sanctimony”, “the best propaganda” parading “as rational discourse”. You know they’re right because this line- “Students are being infantilized and denied agency by the current let’s call it representational culture on campus.” – sounds just too good not to be true. But you, dear academic in action, you are lucky: unlike those poor students, you have someone telling you what you’re actually doing. Students have to struggle with the representational culture, while you, dear concerned academic, you are only one tall pedestal away from enlightenment with respect to the true nature of academic action. Yep, including your own. Seriously.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

It’s astonishing that Kipnis’ defense is that points she presented as established fact are not confirmed inaccuracies but merely IN CONTENTION. Is that her journalistic standard? If a point is in contention, she can present any side she wants as established fact?Report

Justanotherprof
Justanotherprof
5 years ago

@Matt Weiner
You seem to be intentionally misinterpreting Kipnis’s essay.

Her comment about unwanted sexual advances isn’t jawdropping — it is correct. Asking a person out is not harassment. Continuing to do so after the person has said no, or threatening the person in the process, is harassment. If there was a requirement that someone could only ask someone else out when they were 100% sure the answer would be yes, then the human race would have a short future.

Her point in discussing the author-editor situation was not to make people sympathize with the editor, as you misinterpret it. It is rather to show that the female author had been repeatedly taught how helpless and powerless she was to the extent that she was unwilling to tell the guy to stop or complain to his boss. The point Kipnis made about the editor being vulnerable was to point out that the female author did indeed have some power in the situation because the harassing editor was in a precarious situation and had a lot to lose if she took action. Kipnis is arguing that the author likely could have stopped the situation in its tracks at the start by speaking up and telling the guy to stop. Ironically, you’ve pretty much confirmed Kipnis’s point as you seem to think that the female author in that story was a helpless child that needed someone else to rescue her.Report

anonymous
anonymous
5 years ago

Anonymity now: Speaking for myself, I really was, truly, shocked that she dismissed the graduate student’s charges as melodrama and false. I’d have been shocked if George Will had done that. I thought for sure Kipnis must have just not known about the graduate student’s complaint. But as to her “feminism is behind the ills of the culture and damaging the youth” claims? I’ve been keeping up and I haven’t seen anyone even make sense of those. She sounds just like the other Op-Ed writers (Emily Yoffee, Meghan Daum) on that issue. They don’t talk to the young people they are characterizing and constantly refer to their own experiences instead. Aren’t they just self-praising? Or writing what people want to hear? I know others have just laughed it off, because we certainly don’t treat young men who report their abuse as having been victimized by feminism. It just makes no sense to suggest only young women are falsely complaining about sexual assault. (On the other hand, she’s not really in the business of being clear- she usually describes cases loosely and throws out a few observations. I doubt she ever meant to have some clear take on sexual assault or feminism. I think her regular readers know this; she just muses and tries to provoke. She’s a great prose stylist, of course.)Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Matt Weiner — Your statement here is jaw-dropping:

>> Her response to the sexual harassment trainer’s saying “Do not make unwanted sexual advances,” “But how do you know they’re unwanted until you try?” is rather jaw-dropping. If making an unwanted sexual advance toward one of your students is harassment, and you don’t know whether your advance would be unwanted, then maybe don’t try? What’s the risk of not making sexual advances that you don’t know to be wanted–that some professors and students might be deprived of the chance of wanted sex when the student had not made it clear that s/he would welcome sexual advances? Does this really outweigh the problems with professors making unwanted sexual advances just because they’re not sure they’re unwanted? <> I’ve done what I can to adapt myself to the new paradigm. Around a decade ago, as colleges began instituting new “offensive environment” guidelines, I appointed myself the task of actually reading my university’s sexual-harassment handbook, which I’d thus far avoided doing. I was pleased to learn that our guidelines were less prohibitive than those of the more draconian new codes. You were permitted to date students; you just weren’t supposed to harass them into it. I could live with that. <<

She took a workshop at a time when relationships between students and professors at Northwestern were permitted. Her question, thus, was reasonable. How do people know whether someone wants to go out without asking? Beyond that, the admonition to highly educated workshop participants "Do not make unwanted sexual advances," is pretty darn condescending, so responding in a lighthearted manner, "But how do you know they're unwanted until you try?" is really a way of 1) responding by "duh" and 2) things are not so black and white, what about gray areas? It also gets to: What is the current definition of "unwanted sexual advance?"

Question for the list here — did I miss the memo about an epidemic of student-professor sexual harassment cases? They pop up from time to time — there was one a while ago at my campus — but I just don't see or hear about them that frequently.Report

Anne Jacobson
Anne Jacobson
5 years ago

May I clarify? I did not say that it is retaliation. I really am perplexed by the “reasonable person” standard that figures in the gloss I gave. But I hope, and suggested, that we’ve grasped from recent cases that the use of the perpetrators language signals that the victims are not taken as seriously as witnesses.

My gloss on ‘retaliation’ comes from the EEOC. When I brought a case up to the EEOC in 2013 it became clear to me that one really needs a lawyer; fortunately, I had an excellent one. The gloss on retaliation is fairly easy to understand, but much of what is written has a background important That I could not discern. Only something like 4% of complaints filed get settled.

I was surprised to see that people thought I was comparing the victims to little children. I meant instead to compare their treatment to the treatment of children in all the molestation cases we have seen reported recently. Their testimony is just not taken as seriously as that of senior faculty. Or so it seems to me.Report

Paul Prescott
Paul Prescott
5 years ago

As became clear during the open Q & A hosted by the CHE this afternoon, Kipnis faces a very straightforward question which she is unwilling to answer: Do either Ludlow or his lawyer(s) speak for the students they filed against: Yes or No? If ‘yes’ then people in positions of academic authority can do pretty much whatever they want to student’s reputations without fear of consequences. If ‘no,’ then Kipnis must retract her affirmation that Ludlow and the student had a consensual relationship.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
Reply to  Paul Prescott
5 years ago

Paul Prescott — That’s about as much of a false dichotomy as anyone is ever going to see. For one thing, Prof. Kipnis does not have to do anything. Second, who Ludlow or his lawyers did or did not speak for is irrevelant to Kipnis. Third, here is quote from a story from Inside Higher Education:

“”After details of the case were made public, including by Northwestern in an unusual statement, another student – this time a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy – came forward alleging that Ludlow had had nonconsensual sex with her. The graduate student first disclosed the alleged assault to Jennifer Lackey, another professor of philosophy, who reported it to the university and helped file a formal complaint. A third-party investigator hired to look into the new allegations found while there was insufficient evidence to support the assault claim, Ludlow still had violated Northwestern’s sexual harassment policy based on his position of power relative to the graduate student.”

Unless you want to attack the facts presented here in this story as well, while there is nothing here that supports Ludlow’s claim to a dating relationship, there is nothing here that rules it out, either. If Kipnis was writing a fact-based news story, she would be expected to use more qualifiers. In writing a story about how the dating rules between students and professors have changed, and making a 7-word tangential reference to complex litigation involving sexual harassment, the same journalistic principles generally don’t apply. So, I wouldn’t expect Prof. Kipnis to comply with your demands.Report

PassingThrough
PassingThrough
5 years ago

Hey, look: when you’re in a position of authority over someone, you can’t ask them out and expect them to feel comfortable turning you down- unless maybe, you’re really careful about it and sort of apologize for asking them. But even then, you still risk making them really uncomfortable, if not down-right stressed out their ability and career. If you want to date someone that you have professional authority over, just suck it up and hope they ask you out.

As you were, Kipnis debaters.Report

Nix 66
5 years ago

Kipnis’ current ‘freedom of speech’ is also a function of her position and title. She wrote a reckless op-ed piece for a major outlet which evidenced nothing save her own hubristic prejudices, her lack of care for her own students, as well as the total and utter absence of anything that might approximate a functioning Sexual Harassment & Assault policy at NU.

And she personally attacked specific students in doing so. I have no idea why Kipnis’ career and esteem should matter more than the well-being and lives of Northwestern’s own student population.

Further, I’m not entirely sure why she’s being given more space for her ‘free speech.’ Will The Chronicle of Higher Education be giving NU’s chronically hysterical student body such ‘freedom’?Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
Reply to  Nix 66
5 years ago

Nix 66 — Are you always that hysterical yourself? Talk about overstating the case.

Seven words in a 5200-word piece is hardly reckless. Beyond that, even though it is a MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD who the graduate student is, Prof. Kipnis did not mention her by name. She certainly could have — at least then, though now she would probably be hit with another Title IX complaint — which is why I am not providing the name here, either. She did not personally attack anyone. Kipnis mentioned briefly a “dating” relationship, the label of which is in dispute (it is not a legally settled issue).

Two graduate students have gone to the Huffington Post to air their concerns about Kipnis. I do not know if they approached CHE with a response essay. If they did, and were turned down, I would be interested to know why (unless it was an issue of quality). But, they have been allowed a fairly public online forum, and one of the complainants appeared here.

Finally, far too much has been done to Kipnis’ esteem and career already. She has had to endure a Title IX investigation — which I am sure is as enjoyable as a proctology exam. It’s really time to give the professor a break.Report

Nix 66
Reply to  Andy Metz
5 years ago

Better a proctology exam than a rape. One is meant to protect, the other destroy. You minimize. Please use appropriate language.

As to the casual mention, that could just as easily be read as elision.Report

Justanotherprof
Justanotherprof
5 years ago

@63 Paul Prescott
I don’t even understand the question you’ve asked, so it isn’t a straightforward question. Kipnis never claimed that Ludlow and his lawyers spoke on behalf of the students. And Ludlow has already retracted it — the original piece now says “according to his complaint.” Your comment doesn’t make sense.Report

gopher
gopher
5 years ago

Prof. Jacobsen,
“When I brought a case up to the EEOC in 2013 it became clear to me that one really needs a lawyer; fortunately, I had an excellent one.”

That was wise, and fortunate for you that you were permitted and had excellent legal representation.
It’s too bad that the accused are so often not allowed to have lawyers represent them at university disciplinary hearings. Kipnis’s case is typical in that way.Report

Paul Prescott
Paul Prescott
5 years ago

Rest assured, Andy Metz, I am under no illusions as to whether or not Prof. Kipnis will comply with my (or any) demands.Report

Paul Prescott
Paul Prescott
5 years ago

To (1): yes, that Ludlow and/or his lawyers are in a position to speak for the students is a commitment of Kipnis’s (see the CHE interview). To the rest, I’m sorry to hear you find my comment incomprehensible. Perhaps the problem is you.Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
5 years ago

[email protected]: “Hey, look: when you’re in a position of authority over someone, you can’t ask them out and expect them to feel comfortable turning you down- unless maybe, you’re really careful about it and sort of apologize for asking them. But even then, you still risk making them really uncomfortable, if not down-right stressed out their ability and career. If you want to date someone that you have professional authority over, just suck it up and hope they ask you out.”

Yes, this. 59: I’m not making a legal argument about whether or not this constitutes harassment. I’m not an expert on that.

But I don’t need to be a legal expert to say that hitting on a student in your class when you’re not sure if they want you to is an awful, skeevy thing to do and we shouldn’t do it. And that it should be against University policy. Is this controversial?

59: “Kipnis is arguing that the author likely could have stopped the situation in its tracks at the start by speaking up and telling the guy to stop.”

Oh really? How could she possibly know this? She certainly doesn’t provide any evidence for it.Report

Occam
Occam
5 years ago

I wonder if the moderator will permit this link to a discussion of this discussion:

http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2015/06/laura-kipnis-replies.html#commentsReport

Alex
Alex
5 years ago

@Seriously? No, not the presupposition that if x and y are dating, then x cannot rape y.

the implication that could be harmful to the student is that at least one faculty member other than the alleged attacker chose the word “dating” to refer to what she considers to be a violent and damaging relationship in which she was sexually assaulted. the implication being she is a liar. the implication being she had romantic feelings towards her alleged rapist.

that presupposition. you know, the one you didn’t consider, because it’s not backward.Report

Nix 66
5 years ago

I find it really odd that Kipnis invokes Foucault in an article in which she labels living people with less institutional power than herself hysterical so as to not have to consider the validity of the claims against her colleagues (which she clearly did not in any balanced fashion). I know she was referencing ‘Discipline and Punish.’ So I suppose I’d also like to point to the conflicts of interest and misrepresentation of power structure here: http://dailynous.com/2015/05/30/northwestern-and-title-ix-whats-going-on/

Irony.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Nix 66 — “Please use appropriate language.” I didn’t get the memo that you were the language police, but, just curious — what language was not appropriate?

I assume your mention of “rape” here was not to suggest that Prof. Kipnis deserves to be raped, but that you believe the graduate student was raped. In the interest of being fair and balanced, the graduate student alleges she was raped by Peter Ludlow, and Peter Ludlow alleges that she wasn’t. (And for those here who “read” intent into everything written, please read into the fact that I am not mentioning her name that I am not doing so as a way of “minimizing her,” but because she hasn’t announced herself to the world — plus I don’t want to endure any proctology exams, either).Report

Nix 66
Reply to  Andy Metz
5 years ago

No. No one deserves to be raped. But you’ll forgive me, I hope, for being more concerned with the discomfort of assault victims than with that of the poor tenured prof who was investigated under Title IX because she spun them into some I love flirting rant and and wanted to juxtapose herself – in relation to them – as sane and stable.

As for not naming names — Wow! That’s really good of you. You have the power to hurt someone else that you are not exercising. That shows great restraint on your part. It is also a bit intimidating and threatening I imagine to the person you are threatening to expose. Congratulations on making yourself out to be a really good guy while repeatedly flaunting your power. Great moves!Report

Nix 66
5 years ago

PS — And yes, Andy Metz. I am always this hysterical. Sometimes I can’t even keep my own uterus in my body. And then my fancy flies right out the door. You know… Women!Report

zzzyzx
zzzyzx
5 years ago

Kipnis’ version of the undergraduate’s case v. local news stories:
http://s-key.kinja.com/about-that-sexual-paranoia-1708493710Report

Sigrid
Sigrid
5 years ago

Thanks, Justin, for making space here for this discussion. As someone with no legal background, I particularly appreciate the input from those with legal expertise. I also found the following post helpful in understanding the Title IX issues:
http://title-ix.blogspot.com/2015/06/complaint-against-northwestern.html
This post gives a good separation of what is expected from Title IX vs what is expected from Northwestern’s process.

I still have questions about how possible retaliation complaints should be handled. When reading DC’s helpful comment at #7 above, and thinking about where in the chain the misguided complaints should have been stopped, the case of Ludlow’s unsuccessful defamation suit(s) came to mind. It’s not really related, of course, except for the people involved. But I found it helpful to my thought process to mentally compare the Title IX complaint situation to a more legally rigorous one. There’s obvious big differences, but there were parallels (it seemed to me) that helped me refine my questions about the Kipnis case. I would welcome anyone with legal expertise to comment on my thinking here:

I know there were some people who thought Ludlow’s suit was obviously wrong because it went after supposedly privileged speech, but I think the vast majority of people thought he was absolutely in his rights to pursue the suits. They were, nevertheless dismissed as having no merit. There doesn’t seem to be any expectation that Ludlow (or anyone else in a similar position) would already recognize that and not file the suit. Perhaps, it’s because he had legal advice in filing the suit, and therefore, that’s the first check on whether the suit is frivolous. Maybe that’s what was missing in the students’ Title IX complaint – there needed to be someone on their side but in the know to say whether the complaint was at least reasonable.

Maybe another relevant difference is how the complaints and suits are handled. I don’t understand why Kipnis would need to be interviewed to see whether the complaint meets the minimum definition of retaliation. I would think that could have been determined by looking at the article, tweets and what ever else has been filed. Perhaps the defamation suit is handled that way: does the judge even involve the defendants when first judging whether the suit has merits, or does he/she just rule based on the evidence of the supposedly defamatory speech? If the latter, then that would be another way to improve Northwestern’s Title IX process.Report

AnonGrad
AnonGrad
5 years ago

“But I do want to correct the misimpression created by “Anonymous” that the Title IX cases against me had to do, primarily, with factual inaccuracies. It’s irritating to read something inaccurate that’s purporting to combat inaccuracy.”
So Kipnis sets up this article as an argument for the following claim:
(C) The factual inaccuracies in “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academia” were not what prompted the Title IX complaints against Kipnis.

Yet, for the life of me, I cannot at any point see where Kipnis argues for this claim. She certainly spends some time explaining why the Title IX complaints were wrong, and why she chose to write the article the way she did. But neither of these support (C). If you’re going to write an article based on the accusation that one of the Title IX complainants was lying about their motivation, shouldn’t you have to at least provide some evidence of this?Report

Jon Trerise
Jon Trerise
5 years ago

Ligurio: as I mentioned, I thought referencing the child was problematic, though we now know she didn’t mean it that way. (As a charitable reading would have suggested at the outset.) In any case, the argument didn’t need that to work. So, no, it doesn’t work by eliding that difference. I don’t think you responded to the substance of Jacobsen’s point.

Justanotherprof: you do respond (at first) to the substance. Thank you for that. If indeed it is true that that is how retaliation is understood (legally), then it definitely does seem to constitute that (since it is pretty clear she didn’t do that “for the primary purpose” of…). Whether more _should_ count as retaliation, however, is more to the philosophical point here. Which is, I take it, what’s happening with the rest of your comment…

Which is _extremely_ uncharitable (“…somewhere in the future…hypothetical person…vague sense of unease”). I didn’t say that; nor did Jacobsen. Indeed the rest of your comment seems as if you’re responding to someone else. No, it’s not that “any statement that offends anyone for any reason…” That’s the whole point about the “reasonable person” standard, which is pretty common in the law. So you’ve not reconstructed Jacobsen’s point at all; not responded to it at all (nor to me). Indeed, you even accused someone else of “intentionally misinterpreting Kipnis”. But it’s hard for me to see how you can actually have read what was written and not equate the reasonable person standard to “anyone…for any reason”. I mean, I’m a bit dumbfounded here.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Nix 66 — Sorry you apparently can’t do two things at once. I am concerned about the discomfort of assault victims AND I am concerned about a professor who was needlessly put through an ordeal she did not deserve.

As to your quote: “It is also a bit intimidating and threatening I imagine to the person you are threatening to expose.” I am not threatening to “expose” anyone.

I have more that is relevant to say here — but Justin won’t approve it.Report

Nix 66
Reply to  Andy Metz
5 years ago

@Andy Metz — I think Kipnis’ article, with its high profile, most definitely creates a chilling effect. I also think it’s a really ugly attack on the survivors specifically mentioned (like life-threatening, to be quite frank), and survivors in general. Kipnis’ basic premise is that strong, stable, Feminists should relax and enjoy sexual harassment and assault. She references their ability to ruin careers and then gives absolutely no evidence of this to speak of. I agree there’s an inquisition, but I don’t think it’s against Kipnis.

Here’s the thing: If a majority, or even a loud minority, of Northwestern Professors agree that the Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention is a joke and that reporting sexual harassment and assault is for mentally unstable sissies, then how can any student at NU report such offenses made against them? They already know the result. At which point, how is there any Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention at NU in anything other than title?

As for your not being threatening by repeatedly stressing how you and/or Kipnis could reveal names but are not doing so and have not done so, as proof of good will, I think that statement works on two levels. I hope you see that.Report

Veteran
Veteran
5 years ago

When I was a pre-teen, I was raped by two older boys in my neighborhood. That is just a statement of fact. 30+ years later, I don’t look at myself as either a victim OR a survivor, because I think in Internet discourse and on campuses, those labels have been cheapened by those who use them to shut down debate, whether legitimate “victims” and/or “survivors” or not.

Furthermore, I am clinically diagnosed by the VA as having combat-related PTSD. I have been through individual and group therapy to help me find the tools to deal with it and be functional on a daily basis. I DO embrace the label of veteran, and engage in many peer support activities to pay forward, because I know too many of us keep silent and keep our experiences bottled up. I know that, because that’s what I did for 20 years before I finally sought and found help. And what I know damned well is avoiding the trauma is NOT the path towards genuine healing.

To me and my sense of a “reasonable person” standard, Kipnis’ original essay did not rise anywhere close to the level of retaliation against anyone. The Title IX complaints, on the other hand, did. The complaints are what give this story agency, to use the buzz word of the day. Otherwise, I suspect the article would have been quickly forgotten.

As inartful as his essay was, George Will was on to something about how the claimed status of “victim” on campuses is perceived in given circles as something to be desired because such a status bestows the power to be an agent of change… and the power to shut down opposition. “How DARE you de-legitimize MY experience?” (I think that played a big part in the Rolling Stone UVA story. In hindsight, what national magazine would possibly have run that story based on that weak of sourcing? Confirmation bias and the exploitation of victim status to shut down doubts I think goes a long way to explain how that story got published.)

But the truth, at least as I understand it, is there are a lot of us out there, of all political persuasions, who have had terrible things happen to us. I suspect most of us are just trying to get on with getting by in our lives.

The two people who filed the Title IX complaints against Kipnis did themselves, their cause and all of us who genuinely believe in the dignity of individuals a great disservice by bringing added attention and scrutiny in a way that invites ridicule.

The best response would have been to read the article, shrug, drink a cup of coffee and go about your day.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

I wish this thread would close.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Veteran — First, thank you for your service.

Second, I am sorry to hear about the abuse you reported suffering.

Third, I totally agree with what you had to say.Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
5 years ago

@Andy Metz,

“I have more that is relevant to say here — but Justin won’t approve it.”

Join the club. Justin needs to decide whether he is a partisan or a neutral observer. The heavy-handed moderation of opposing views belies the face he is presenting to the internet at large; like it or not, Daily Nous has become a go-to resource for people seeking to learn more about this case.Report

Nix 66
5 years ago

@Veteran I am very sorry to hear about what happened to you as a pre-teen. However, I fear you might have a very different take on this issue if you had tried to report it to any authority whatsoever. Perhaps you did? But your comment seemed to indicate that you did not.

There have been many reports from survivors talking about how the effects of reporting are in fact more traumatic than the initial incident of abuse. I understand if this is hard for you to swallow. But in most cases there is an erasure of story/sanity. Vice ran a piece called “I Got Raped, Then My Problem Started.” It’s old, but there are an overwhelming number of stories of institutional failure being more traumatizing than the initial trauma. This is the case in civilian life, academic life, and military life.

As to the UVA story, I found Berlatsky’s analysis on Reason quite illuminating.

Finally, I do think this is a very gendered issue. One of the main problems with Kipnis’ first article for CHE is that she expects women to control their “hysteria” (indeed, not even calmly communicate triggers), but not nebbish editors and tenured professors.Report

Peter Gerdes
Peter Gerdes
5 years ago

@Anne Jacobson,

That can’t be the right rule. Think of the consequences. Suppose someone really was raped by a professor but circumstantial evidence favors the defendant, i.e., there isn’t enough evidence to discipline the perpetrator. By the rule you give merely *correctly adjudicating* the accusation against the professor *itself* constitutes retaliation. After all, seeing that the adjudication didn’t find against the professor surely would discourage similar complaints (and even complaints where the evidence did favor the accuser) in the future.

Similarly, what about saying in public that you felt the adjudication of title IX complaints had been handled well at the school. If it is known that an accuser had lost a highly publicized case (even if it was because the accuser had insufficient evidence) knowing that members of your university approve of the decision not to punish someone without sufficient evidence against them would deter people from filing future complaints.

Merely making people aware of the potential costs of filing a complaint (you might lose, it might become public and people would think poorly of you) or expressing your opinions about a complaint *for the purposes of commenting on the wisdom of the current system* doesn’t meet any plausible definition of retaliation.

Retaliation requires the intent to make life worse for an individual who filed a complaint as *punishment* for filing that complaint. If the legal definition doesn’t track this it needs to be changed as the above examples indicate.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

The Onion Man — Yes, this is becoming a problem. On the one hand, it is Justin’s blog. I guess he can do what he wants to. But, on the other hand, when moderation changes the reality of what is being said on the comments area — and restricts important avenues of inquiry, it becomes an issue.

For example, I responded to an attack that I was being “threatening” when I stated that even though I knew it, I was not presenting the name of the graduate student complainant. I assume most people responding here know the name of the person. We don’t make reference to it out of a sense of courtesy — the person has not formally announced herself. (There are two practical concerns as well — no one wants to be charged with “retaliation” and I assume that Justin would not allow it). I really don’t know how my pointing out that reality is “threatening and intimidating.

But, I also called into question the nature of being anonymous. If a person wants to remain anonymous, then are there rules that govern that person’s behavior? Are there limits set on how “public” the person can be without losing the protection of anonymity? Does the person lose certain free speech rights in the process of being anonymous? At what point does the “anonymous” person cross the line and void the protection of anonymity? I think those are all legitimate questions to raise.Report

Paul Prescott
Paul Prescott
5 years ago

Here, once again, is the dilemma:

In the Q&A hosted by the CHE yesterday, Kipnis maintained that this document — http://dailynous.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/ludlow-decision-to-dismiss-redacted.pdf — “establishes that the graduate student is on record as saying there had been a consensual romantic relationship” (her words). Attorneys representing Ludlow in a suit against the student (among others) wrote the document. Hence, the question: Do either Ludlow or his lawyer(s) speak for the student they filed against: Yes or No?

If ‘yes,’ then Kipnis is justified in stating that Ludlow and the student were in a consensual romantic relationship. But then people in positions of academic authority can do pretty much whatever they want to students’ reputations. Why? Because they can speak for them. (I take this option to be repugnant. Students are not children, and can speak for themselves.)

If ‘no,’ then Kipnis is not justified in stating that Ludlow and the student were in a consensual romantic relationship. But then Kipnis must (should, ought to) retract her affirmation that they were. Why? Because the student is not on record as saying that there had been a consensual romantic relationship.

I don’t take my point here to be one about free speech, Title IX, treating students like victims, or larger issues of legality. I also don’t believe my point is obviously unreasonable, or incomprehensible, or premised on a false dichotomy.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Paul Prescott — When both CHE and Prof. Kipnis were alerted to the complaints, the passage in the “Sexual Paranoia” essay was changed to:

“The professor sued for defamation various colleagues, administrators, and a former grad student whom, according to his complaint, he had previously dated; a judge dismissed those suits this month.”

Thus, the error has been rectified (and has been for a while), so Prof. Kipnis has nothing to retract.

I also think this response from a journalism professor on the CHE-sponsored Q&A session with Prof. Kipnis is instructive here (I sought and received permission to use this quote):

“I teach journalism and I teach media law. If I was writing a news story about Peter Ludlow, and was using the text of the dismissal of his lawsuit, I would have been aware that the information in footnote 1 about how the background as presented by Ludlow was being accepted as fact because the issue was not their veracity, but whether or not Ludlow had sufficiently established grounds for the defamation cases to go forward. Prof. Kipnis’ essay was an opinion piece about how student-professor relationships have changed over times, and whether the new rules being instituted did not have the unintended consequence of making students less prepared to take on life after college. Her reference to the graduate student and Peter Ludlow amount to 7 words out of 5200 and are tangential to her larger point. The graduate student’s identity was not mentioned — though now it is quite clear as to who she is. Kipnis and CHE were made aware of the minor errors at the same time, and they were corrected. So, bottom-line, Kipnis has nothing to retract. I hope that is clear. If not, then I will default to Prof. Kipnis’ response — ‘Oh come on.'”

Interesting insight as to the distinction about writing news stories versus writing opinion pieces.Report

Seriously?
Seriously?
5 years ago

That’s the judge’s order dismissing Ludlow’s complaint. That wasn’t written by Ludlow’s lawyers, it was written by the judge. It’s called “OPINION AND ORDER” for a reason.

[Note from Justin: As has been discussed here and elsewhere, the judge in this ruling is not issuing a finding of fact. He is not declaring what he thinks really happened. Rather, he is merely restating the facts as presented in Ludlow’s suit, so as to assess whether, were the facts as Ludlow states, Ludlow would have a case. The judge himself says this. So, while the specific wording of the facts may have been changed as the judge writes his ruling (I don’t know if they were), as far as the “facts” go, they were indeed written by Ludlow’s lawyers.]Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Andy Metz, the correction was only made almost a month later and well after the Title IX complaint was filed.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Anonymous — Did you not read Prof. Kipnis’ post (above):

“As to my refusing to correct those errors, this is simply wrong. I never refused, because I wasn’t aware of the errors until the Chronicle got emails from people speaking on behalf of ‘Anonymous.'”

I also think another quote by Prof. Kipnis is relevant here — from the CHE-Facebook Q&A:

>> I’m going to say one more thing about the “dating” controversy, and then I’m done. A 72 day Title IX investigation concluded that my use of the term was justified. C’est tout. <<

Qui, c'est tout.Report

DC
DC
5 years ago

I hope the complainants who brought the claims against Ludlow don’t actually read through these comments; I think this is an important conversation to have but I feel less and less comfortable prolonging it when the personal lives of the students who accused Ludlow are discussed, particularly in terms of whether there was or was not a relationship with the PhD student. I do not know what happened between them but any defense I have of Kipnis’ right to discuss an issue without formal punishment has nothing to do with Ludlow or even with Kipnis’ general views towards romantic relationships between students and faculty. That being said, I think the debate is getting a little skewed and simplifying some of the legal questions a bit:

@93: “Hence, the question: Do either Ludlow or his lawyer(s) speak for the student they filed against: Yes or No?”

That seems to be a fairly textbook example of begging the question; “speak for” has a meaning imbued with characteristics of authority over, and advocacy for, which in a situation like this would pretty much be self-evidently not true. A more accurate, less loaded question would be “can Ludlow or his lawyers be relied upon for the accuracy of a statement made in his complaint in the absence of any competing statements?” I agree the answer is “no.” But it doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not anyone is being spoken for, and I can understand (if not agree with) Kipnis’ belief that it could, though I do agree it is not “on the record” that the student agreed — rather, it’s on the record that _Ludlow_ claims that the student agreed there was a relationship.

However, as a practical matter, statements in a Complaint can have different levels of credibility in context, particularly as the parties and especially the lawyers can face later sanction for putting something that is demonstrably false. “X was in a relationship with Y” simply as a conclusory statement is not particularly convincing. “X was in a relationship with Y, as both X and Y confided to Z,” is a little more convincing; at some point Z will presumably be called to testify. Ludlow didn’t just assert that he dated the PhD student; he also asserted that the PhD student told Slavin that they did. Now I don’t think that is necessarily credible enough to assume as true, particularly since there’s basically a train of hearsay in the Complaint: Ludlow says that Bobb says that Slavin says that the PhD student agreed that there was a relationship.

Ludlow’s characterization of his investigator’s characterization of the Title IX investigator’s characterization of the PhD student’s characterization is not a game of telephone that I would put much trust in. But just like I don’t blame the students for not understanding Title IX caselaw, I don’t blame Kipnis for not being able to critically evaluate statements in a lawsuit if she’s not used to doing so. If she was convinced by that, it might speak to her credulity but not to whether or not she “retaliated” against someone.Report

Paul Prescott
Paul Prescott
5 years ago

My point is that Kipnis error, which she did eventually retract, was not an innocent error. It should not have happened. We appear to disagree about the significance of such misrepresentations. It does not follow from the fact that she was cleared by the Title IX investigation that she has done nothing ethically or professionally wrong.Report

Paul Prescott
Paul Prescott
5 years ago

Andy Metz — Yes, she eventually retracted her claim. My larger point, however, is that the error was not an innocent error. It should not have happened. We appear to disagree about the significance of such misrepresentations. It does not follow from the fact that she was cleared by the Title IX investigation that she has done nothing ethically or professionally wrong.Report

anonymous
anonymous
5 years ago

Andy, if she wants to say she is justified, that is in the context of a Title IX investigation (one she’s derided, but still). Does anyone here disagree with that? Those who think she is morally bankrupt for suggesting rape allegations (about which she admitted she knew nothing) are melodrama will not think she is justified ethically. I guess you know this. I’d also suggest that if professors can say anything they’d like about students (I guess next someone like Kipnis will be publishing essays that mock identifiable students at our schools for being actual rapists not just liars about rape– ) it will matter that the ethics of that be something we are allowed to weigh in on. She has not made any kind of ethical case for mocking (any?) students who report sexual assault. She just insists that wasn’t the point of her essay anyway and that it was inadvertent. Maybe she will make an ethical case? Maybe you have one? But until then, I hope people talk about the ethics of professors publishing very casual and disinterested take-downs of the credibility of particular students at their school. That would not be a violation of free speech, due process, or academic freedom.Report

What?
What?
5 years ago

I am one of the people who contacted Kipnis about her piece and the erroneous representation of the two Title IX cases within it. She may not have read my email, but she responded to it. I am not the only person she responded to. One email, she replied to twice, within 24 hours of it being sent.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Andy Metz: As has been said repeatedly, several people reached out to Kipnis by e-mail immediately after her piece was published to point out the errors in her article. I suppose it is possible that she didn’t in fact read these e-mails, and so was not aware of the errors until the Chronicle intervened, but how this is supposed to mitigate her responsibility in any way is beyond me. Moreover, in what way does the conclusion of the Title IX investigation show that Kipnis’s use of the term “dating” to describe Ludlow’s relationship with the graduate student was “justified.” The mere fact that Kipnis’s conduct was found to have not risen to the level of retaliation in no way shows that her conduct was justified in any sense of the word. This is a basic Philosophy 101 mistake on Kipnis’s part.Report

Carnap
Carnap
5 years ago

Justin, your recent update reads as follows: “Additional note to commenters: speculation as to the veracity of any of the parties involved in the cases under discussion, or about whether any of the relevant events under discussion took place, greatly increases the chances of your comment not being approved.”

With respect, I find this puzzling. *Part* of what seems to be at issue between those involved in the discussion here is whether or not Kipnis was ever sufficiently epistemically justified in thinking that the relevant parties had “dated” to make the public assertion that they were. How can one address that question without in some way addressing “the veracity of any of the parties” or, what comes to the same thing in this case, “whether any of the relevant events under discussion took place.” Isn’t discussing whether or not there is sufficient evidence for asserting p necessarily connected with whether or not p is true?Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
5 years ago

Re: the “additional note”:

Does speculating/asserting/assuming that certain events did take place similarly impact the chance of your comment not being approved?Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Given the threats, invasion of privacy, intense scrutiny, and general harassment that the two graduate students in question have suffered in recent weeks, who in their right mind would now ever file a Title IX complaint in this discipline?Report

Nix 66
5 years ago

I think it goes further than that. Who would ever report anything? Kipnis literally detailed a clear instance of sexual harassment in her original piece, showed that the abuser was not punished, and then chalked it up to the hysterical fragility on the part of the person harassed.

She also made it quite clear that sexual harassment/assault is not taken seriously by the professoriat at NU, and that the people in charge of SH training are not even remotely equipped for their task.

Why is no prof at NU using their tenure/education to talk about that? To actually challenge their own institution’s policies instead of serving as an apologist? I mean, that actually would be brave.Report

Veteran
Veteran
5 years ago

Like Andy Metz, I knew only peripherally of Ludlow and the accusations against him before I stumbled across Kipnis’ essays last week. I am not part of academia, except tangentially as the son of a retired Johns Hopkins professor. (Who met my mother, his wife when they were both undergraduates. They will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary next year.) My interest is this, err, “situation” stems from as I noted in my previous comment, I do a fair amount of peer support activities with fellow veterans. Besides PTSD, “moral injury” and substance abuse, the other significant area I focus on is military sexual trauma (MST).

I wasn’t abused in the military, but once I was willing to talk openly about what happened to me as a pre-teen, I found I could make a difference in the healing process of women AND men who had been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted, or sexually harassed, while in uniform. Having been both in college and the military, the latter takes the proverbial cake in terms of power disparity and means for retaliation against reporting. And I do know several analogous situations to what Ludlow is alleged to have done, and how the process treated the accusers.

The reality is any time you level ANY sort of life-altering accusations against anyone else, you better be prepared for the ride. More than one commenter has alluded to the chilling effect of Ludlow/Kipnis in this thread on people coming forward to make Title IX allegations. When it comes to Ludlow’s reactionary defamation suits, I think that’s a fair concern. But when it comes to Kipnis’ essays, it seems to me some are getting lost in the weeds.

From an outsider’s perspective, but from a relatively informed perspective on the opacity of the more generalized topic of sexual harassment/assault/rape (with distinct empathy/sympathy for the genuine victims), going after Kipnis is to me an exercise in “nitpicking.”

I have little opinion one way or the other about whether or not Ludlow is guilty as charged. (The “little” is as a 45-year-old with kids, one of whom is college-aged, the December-May shading that would need to be applied to any reading of Ludlow and his behavior with teens/early 20-somethings is distasteful in any context.) To me, that’s beside the point. What is so chilling is how Ludlow’s case, only used tangentially by Kipnis to make her larger point (which we can agree or disagree with) formed the basis for what can only be described as an attack to shut her down. And not just by someone immediately involved, but by someone who… well, just because.

The mechanisms of redress in any forum, for any part of society, only truly work when not used for frivilous ends, or in ways intended to “win” regardless of merit, or to simply punish those who hold legitimately differing opinions.

Those of us who can legitimately claim to be “victims” are not actually meaningfully served by such shenanigans, no matter how well intended.

P.S. Just in case, I will be happy to correspond privately with anyone who doubts the sincerity of anything I’ve asserted. My name is Matthew Spira (Google me, if you want.)Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
5 years ago

@Veteran

Thanks again for sharing. As someone who has also been diagnosed with clinical PTSD, one of the things that strikes me about this issue, and the related ongoing discussion about trigger warnings, is the ideological stakes in your use of the phrase “genuine victims.” You see, among certain parties to this discussion, everyone who claims to be a “survivor” of e.g. sexual assault is a “genuine victim,” whether the assault in question happened the way the “survivor” claimed it did (or happened at all). Witness the dead-enders still insisting that UVA’s Jackie is the victim in that situation. This is, to put it briefly, unacceptable.Report

Veteran
Veteran
5 years ago

@the Onion Man– I wrote my comment at 3:54am, which is because the inability to sleep is pretty par for the course for me. If that comment had been a draft– which it should have been instead of something I submitted– I would have removed that particular paragraph upon revision.

1) I don’t see myself as a victim or survivor. (Well, I did survive the Battle of Medina Ridge in 1991, the largest tank battle in the history of the United States, but that’s a different kind of survivor.)

2) The assertion of a “victim” and/or “survivor” status is the go-to mechanism for shutting down any questioning.

I reflexively defaulted to what I accuse others of doing.

::sigh::

Maybe this is why this mode of “debate,” the rush to victim status, is so pernicious… it is the easy way out.

P.S. Justin: For the record, having mucked about this blog over the last couple days, I think you do a great job of moderating very difficult topics to enable a wide range of voices to be heard. As a non-philosopher, but for what it is worth as a former Literature student, you all collectively are making complex issues accessible.Report

Jon Trerise
Jon Trerise
5 years ago

Peter Gerdes- Thank you for responding to the substance of Jacobsen’s point. It demands a careful reply; sorry for the length.

As I understand it, your suggestion is that the following construal of retaliation can’t be correct.

(R1) S has retaliated against T’s complaint of assault if and only if a reasonable person would be deterred from complaining about assault

You say this can’t be right, b/c if S assaulted T, but circumstances were such that S is found (supposedly, justifiably) innocent, then the correct adjudication would constitute retaliation, since it would likely deter other people from bringing charges upon S (or their own perpetrators).

But this is a peculiar case. I note that it, and the following example you give, both contain a specific feature; viz., that the opinions or decisions of third parties come in to make the deterrence actual. Even in your “making aware” case (where making a victim aware of the difficulties of filing a complaint might deter a victim from filing it) involves the hypothetical involvement of third-party decisions to make the deterrence actual.

I would be curious to see if you could construct a similar case w/o the involvement of third parties as the active agents of deterrence. Third parties are obviously involved in a trivial sense. The point is to not have the deterrence be _because_ of the involvement of third parties. In the Kipnis case, the putative deterrence towards future complainants comes from Kipnis’ actions herself, _not_ because of how others will react to her actions. I’m not certain, but I believe this is the key disanalogy b/n your cases and the Kipnis one.

This suggests a revision of the principle for clarity.
(R1′) S has retaliated against T if and only if a reasonable person would be deterred from complaining about assault because of S’s actions

It is notoriously hard to identify whether or a response φ (in this case, deterrence) is because of action ψ or θ (e.g., Kipnis’ actions or some other random feature). So this principle is definitely difficult to use in abstraction. However is this feature present in this case? That’s exactly what Jacobsen’s original post was about: Kipnis’ article is very like the kinds of responses assault victims (or victims of oppression) generally hear (“stop your complaining”, “toughen up”, “well, he claims you were dating, so, he-said/she-said; nothing else we can do”).

Again I’ve got no illusions here; it’s difficult in he-said/she-said cases, which is why I said above that we’re collectively trying to find the difficult balance b/n supporting victims (and ending harassment and assault) and still supporting due process (and not pursuing justice too single-mindedly). But the point here is that your analogies, I think, don’t on their own challenge Jacobsen’s idea.

All of this, after all, parallels other debates about whether intention is relevant for constituting harm done. It is generally thought these days that intention is _not_ relevant for determining whether harm has been done (whereas intention is generally thought relevant for the determination of character). Retaliation is a form of harm, so the only thing that remains is to see whether it is such a special form of harm that for some reason something that applies to harm generally doesn’t apply to this (putatively special) subcategory thereof. It seems the burden is on you to prove that.
(This still leaves open, as I noted before) how we should punish unintentional retaliation. I think that’s not obvious at all (as it usually is hard to know how to punish unintentional wrongdoing).)Report

Eureka
Eureka
5 years ago

“These were the errors I made: I mistakenly referred to a current graduate student as a “former” graduate student, because she was referred to in the past tense in a legal filing: “was a graduate student at the time.” (I didn’t, at the time, know the name of student in question.) The Chronicle article, which was supposed to be published in March, went online a few days early, on February 27; I’d written about a legal decision as taking place “last month”—i.e. in February—thinking the issue date would be March. This was one of the inaccuracy charges. Another error was my writing that “several” lawsuits by the undergraduate in the Ludlow case had been thrown out. At the time, one suit had been thrown out, one had not been allowed to proceed, and there had also been an unsuccessful attempt to get financial restitution. Another suit was pending an outcome. Keeping track of the status of these various cases was difficult as there was no master chronology available, and I was trying to collate information from different sources. The Chronicle ran a correction stating that one suit had been thrown out, not several.”

If doing professional and accurate journalism is too “difficult” for you, Kipnis, then maybe you should have refrained from evening mentioning the case. Or, at least you could have done the decent thing and stated, in your original article, that you weren’t certain about the events that took place, instead of presuming to be fully informed. To say that “several lawsuits” were thrown out is not just a small error, because it sends the message that Ludlow was being victimized by being bombarded with “so many” unsubstantiated” law suits by these “melodramatic” students. To brush off this mistake as an “oops” moments, as if it’s comparable to making a grammatical mistake, is quite troubling. Almost as troubling as your claim that the graduate student who filed a sexual assault complaint against Ludlow was “dating” him.Report

Eureka
Eureka
5 years ago

“Let me explain why I didn’t say more about the case. The only account I had access to was the professor’s. Though all the information I drew on was in the public record, there was also a lot of private (and unverifiable) information about the graduate student’s life that I had no desire to comment on, or further circulate, even though the student wasn’t named. Once again, most of the facts and sexual allegations were—and are—in contention. ”

Can someone please explain how this professor had access to “a lot of private” information about the graduate student’s life? And, can someone also please explain how this claim of having unsubstantiated “private information” is even relevant to Kipnis’ article? Are we supposed to praise this tenured professor for not “commenting on” or “further circulating” this unsubstantiated”private information” about a graduate student? As I see it, this is evidently a taunt directed at the graduate student– a way of letting her know that “private information” about her is being circulated in the public, or at least in Kipnis’ circle.Report

zzzyzx
zzzyzx
5 years ago

Can anyone help to clarify this statement from the post above? –
“in both cases, according to documents in the public record, rulings were made on the basis of policies that didn’t exist; rulings were made based on facts that weren’t in evidence. The rules of evidence were arbitrary.”
As far as I can tell, the only sources for this are again Ludlow’s complaint filings, but maybe I am missing something.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

zzzyzx, you’re not missing anything. People are taking Ludlow’s complaint to be factual here (without much in the way of justification it seems, since there actually are also documents on the public record that seem to show this was not the case).Report

Anon27
Anon27
Reply to  Anonymous
5 years ago

I really wish when people assert “evidence” of one kind or another, they would actually cite verifiable sources. You would think for academics this would be second nature.

What EXACTLY are these “documents” for or against Ludlow and his accusers?Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
5 years ago

@Anonymous 3:58,

Can you summarize or link to those documents on the public record that contradict Ludlow’s account?Report

DC
DC
5 years ago

@[email protected]:
“Can someone please explain how this professor had access to “a lot of private” information about the graduate student’s life?”

She seems to be clearly stating that the Complaint — which is in the public record — also contained a lot of private information about the graduate student’s life that she didn’t want to further circulate.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Onion Man, in the 2012 case, he was found responsible for making unwanted advances of a sexual nature, including some of the claims of physical contact. That’s public record, and it was a violation of the policy at the time.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Eureka, you made the following statements:

>> Can someone please explain how this professor had access to “a lot of private” information about the graduate student’s life? And, can someone also please explain how this claim of having unsubstantiated “private information” is even relevant to Kipnis’ article? Are we supposed to praise this tenured professor for not “commenting on” or “further circulating” this unsubstantiated”private information” about a graduate student? As I see it, this is evidently a taunt directed at the graduate student– a way of letting her know that “private information” about her is being circulated in the public, or at least in Kipnis’ circle. <<

You do realize that Prof. Kipnis teaches at the same institution as Ludlow and the two accusers, right? Before she wrote the "Sexual Paranoia" essay, there had been more than a year's worth of news and comment (as well as university disciplinary actions and legal cases) about Ludlow. People talk to one another (OK, gossip) and reveal items that they believe to be relevant. It would not surprise me that Kipnis had other information about the case that was too personal about the accusers that she chose not to show. She wasn't asking for praise, nor taunting. She was indicating that she had access to more information than she shared — and she chose not to share that because 1) it could harm the accusers and 2) it wasn't the point of her essay.Report

Eureka
Eureka
5 years ago

Actually my question was more rhetorical, but leave it to Andy Metz to offer a paragraph long explanation, holding out his mere speculations as fact.
Also, if your explanation is correct, then Kipnis ought to have said she had access to “unverifiable rumors” about the graduate student, not “private information.”

But, then again, had she used accurate wording (i.e. that she had access to “unverifiable rumors” about the student), it would be all the more obvious that mentioning this is not in any way relevant to her article, because telling the world that she “chose not to” spread unsubstantiated rumors does not help motivate Kipnis’ case. I am pretty sure that not spreading such rumors about a graduate student in a Chronicle article is the minimal standard of decency and one doesn’t need to shout it from the roof tops when she adheres to such a standard.

As a side note, it’s interesting that you, Andy Metz, presume there was a legitimate choice to make regarding the spreading of such rumors– like Kipnis sat down at her desk listing both the pros and cons of doing so and “chose not to” (e.g., you write: “Kipnis had other information about the case that was too personal about the accusers that she chose not to show”). I would never even consider spreading such rumors as an “option,” and thus there’s no choice to be made about spreading them in the first place. But, I guess if you think that there is a legitimate “choice” to be made about spreading rumors about graduate students, then it makes sense that you see this passage as relevant.Report

Laura Kipnis
Laura Kipnis
5 years ago

Some of the commentators are going to enormous lengths to contest my arguments, lengths that put them on intellectually ludicrous ground. As to the validity of my using the word “dating” in my Chronicle essay regarding the relationship between Ludlow and a graduate student: to be even clearer than I was previously, Ludlow’s suit quotes the graduate student’s prior complaint as having acknowledged a consensual romantic relationship and consensual sex between the two of them. (This obviously has nothing to do with whether or not there was also non-consensual sex at some point.) So are commentators asserting that Ludlow lied in his court filings about easily disprovable matters, that is, the graduate student’s statements in her earlier complaint? Are commentators asserting there wasn’t a prior consensual relationship? I don’t think anyone has said that; nevertheless my “journalistic” credentials are under attack for supposedly mistaking assertions in a court filing for facts. The dispute is whether this is a distinction that makes a difference in this case. (And additionally, whether using the word “dating” as a synonym for “consensual romantic relationship” is actionable under Title IX.) Though I see Justin has posted a proviso disallowing posts that address whether relevant events took place, or speculation about the veracity of the parties involved, as some commentators have pointed out, the underlying facts are indeed what’s being argued about. And so is my veracity. Regarding which, I’m going to once again say that a 72-day Title IX investigation established that the use of the term “dating” in the essay was perfectly legitimate, and so was relying on the court documents for the underlying facts of the case.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Laura Kipnis, I am sincerely amazed that you are continuing to spread misinformation. Had you read Ludlow’s complaint closely, you would know that it is not quoting the student’s complaint against him, but rather offering his own summary about what the report of findings stated. Never, at any point, does his legal complaint quote the student’s complaint against him.

As a matter of logic, let me also point out that it’s highly implausible that the investigation you were subjected to determined that the use of the term “dating” was legitimate in any sense other than that it did not rise to the level of retaliation since, presumably, the investigation was not into the semantic content of the term, nor the relationship in question, but rather your behavior.Report

DC
DC
5 years ago

@[email protected]: “Had you read Ludlow’s complaint closely, you would know that it is not quoting the student’s complaint against him, but rather offering his own summary about what the report of findings stated.”

Actually I think you’re both wrong; Ludlow does not “quote” in a technical sense what the student said, in terms of offering a verbatim account of what the student said. According to the redacted complaint from Leiter Reports, however, Ludlow certainly does directly refer to the student’s complaint and not just the report of findings.

“As a matter of logic, let me also point out that it’s highly implausible that the investigation you were subjected to determined that the use of the term “dating” was legitimate in any sense other than that it did not rise to the level of retaliation since, presumably, the investigation was not into the semantic content of the term, nor the relationship in question, but rather your behavior.”

That argument makes very little sense to me. The complainants (or at the least the one complainant posted here) have specifically stated that it was the “factual inaccuracies,” including the statement about Ludlow and the student dating, and not the philosophical position presented, which constituted retaliation. Under that theory whether her statement was in fact an inaccuracy or not is certainly something that the investigation against Kipnis would seek to determine.Report

Anne Jacobson
Anne Jacobson
5 years ago

@Peter Gerdes

Your comment shows why lawyers are at least a huge help. Your argument shows, I think, that content alone doesn’t make something retaliation. You say that intent to cause harm is needed.

I’d bet you are wrong about intent; the reasonable person clause probably covers what is needed – ie, you could have fforeseen. I’d bet speaker’s position and venue make the difference. But I am not a lawyer.Report

Anonymity now
Anonymity now
5 years ago

Laura Kipnis,

Thank you very much for your contributions here and for your excellent piece on sexual paranoia. It’s very thought-provoking stuff.

I am a member of the philosophical profession, but reading through this thread makes me embarrassed to admit that. If there’s any point to studying philosophy, it’s that we can learn to overcome our initial biases and consider alternative views and arguments fairly before coming to our conclusions.

Other commenters here, who I presume are some of my colleagues, have shown us that they are not willing to do this. Rather than come to grips with your often challenging objections against many of our presumptions, which have made me at least think twice about things I once took for granted, they seem willing to direct their attention against the most tangential points you make (if you’re even making them) while avoiding your very interesting main contensions.

No doubt, they don’t realize they’re doing this, and they think they’re being very, very clever in their sophistry, and they will never, never admit they’re wrong until they’ve run out of ever smaller points on which they can build some sort of case. And since they’re trained in quibbling and don’t have the wisdom to know when to stop, that will never happen.

So I can see that this is a fight you cannot win here, and that we will not get anywhere in thinking through the important points you raise as long as your interlocutors here set the tone. And that is a source of shame for us. But at least you’ve got me thinking, and I thank you for that.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

DC, he refers to the complaint by way of the report. It’s the same in the other case. And, the investigation wouldn’t seek to determine whether or not the word was accurately used unless it first determined that refusing to correct such an error could rise to retaliation to begin with.Report

Paul Prescott
Paul Prescott
5 years ago

“I’m going to once again say that a 72-day Title IX investigation established that the use of the term “dating” in the essay was perfectly legitimate, and so was relying on the court documents for the underlying facts of the case.”

In response to which I’m going to say, once again, that (a) the verdict of the Title IX investigation is entirely irrelevant to the larger question of whether such conduct is ethically and professionally defensible. And (b), that relying on documents provided by Ludlow and his attorney’s is both a culpable error (i.e., an instance where you, and all of us, should know better), and seriously harmful to the student who filed against Ludlow.Report

Carnap
Carnap
5 years ago

Kipnis (@123) writes “to be even clearer than I was previously, Ludlow’s suit quotes the graduate student’s prior complaint as having acknowledged a consensual romantic relationship and consensual sex between the two of them. (This obviously has nothing to do with whether or not there was also non-consensual sex at some point.) So are commentators asserting that Ludlow lied in his court filings about easily disprovable matters, that is, the graduate student’s statements in her earlier complaint? Are commentators asserting there wasn’t a prior consensual relationship?”

Do those who have criticized her (see David [email protected], [email protected], Paul [email protected] and many many others) have a response to the specific questions she asks (esp. the first)? That would be more helpful than repeated claims that she relied on the “unverified assertions” of Ludlow or his lawyer(s). The assertions in question are in a court filing and concern easily disprovable or verifiable claims about statements in other court filings.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Professor Kipnis,

I’m not saying Ludlow lied. I don’t know. I’m saying you didn’t know either, and yet you presented a view about the matter as uncontested fact. EVEN IF it turns out you are right about the fact, my objection is that it was irresponsible for you to report what you did as established fact. You might think “it stands to reason” that Ludlow wouldn’t misrepresent on this point. The objection is: that’s not good enough. That is OBVIOUSLY not a good enough evidential basis for what you wrote. Imagine if journalists generally presented contested claims as facts on the basis that it stands to reason the players involved wouldn’t lie or misrepresent about them. This is what I’m saying is bad journalism.

Going forward in your career, here seems like a good rule to follow. When reporting on cases of alleged rape, get the facts right. Including even facts that don’t seem to you to matter all that much. Also, don’t present as established fact that which is contested. Again, this applies even to matters that don’t strike you as all that important. After all, you might not know what’s important, for legal purposes. And at any rate you can cover all bases by playing it safe and getting all the facts right, as opposed to having to distinguish between which facts are the important ones you need to get right and which ones it’s okay to be less careful about.

If you don’t have access to better evidence than what you had here, so that you don’t know what the facts are, well… maybe you just shouldn’t write about the case, as painful as that may be. Or maybe you could write about it, but using more guarded language–even if the inclusion of caveats and disclaimers goes against your general writing style. That would be my advice: to sacrifice some of your writing style, and even to complicate your narrative a bit, if you need to do so in order to get the facts and contested matters right.Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
5 years ago

@Anonymous 6:13

Have you read Ludlow’s complaint? What do you make of the (dis)provable allegations of fact he makes, including the existence of physical evidence in support of his version of events?

Until or unless the Ph.D. student’s complaint becomes public record, it will be impossible for any of us without access to it to determine just how accurate is Ludlow’s (and therefore Kipnis’) description of certain statements, which he characterizes as an admission that Ludlow and the Ph.D. student had had a consensual relationship. But I have a hard time accepting the contention that he just completely misunderstood whatever those statements were, to constitute such an admission.Report

Sigrid
Sigrid
5 years ago

@Onion man 6:24
I don’t think the Title 9 complaint was justified, and I also think the process Kipnis was put through was ridiculous, but…

Having read Ludlow’s complaint, I think there’s all sorts of room for thinking that it doesn’t accurately reflect what the student’s view point of the relationship. Not because he might be lying or misleading (although he might be) but just based on the normal ways people can mean different things:
– there are obviously all sorts of consensual sex relationships that no one would characterize as dating
– there are even “romantic” consensual sex relationships that some people might not consider to be dating (eg meeting only in private, but not going out; “friends with benefits”, etc)
– the only place the complaint mentions “dating” does not refer back to the student’s testimony, it’s just Ludlow’s description of the relationship

So I think it’s perfectly possible that Ludlow honestly considers it dating and the student, perhaps even admitting the same basic facts, honestly considers it something else. Would everyone find that distinction important? Maybe not, but in the context of a rape accusation, people are understandably more sensitive. In any case, it seems odd to forgo the obvious step of getting both sides of the story.Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
5 years ago

@Sigrid 7:55

I agree with your analysis, but if the Title IX complaint hangs on the difference between “dating” and “having a ‘consensual sex relationship,'” then in my book that makes the proceedings against Kipnis all the more baseless.

I also agree that in the abstract you should try to get both sides of the story, but that is difficult when one side is on the public record, while the other is not and (presumably) refuses to comment. Perhaps Kipnis could have included a “Ph.D. Student could not be reached for comment,” however, color me skeptical that this would have in any way mitigated the response she received from her critics.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Anonymous — I am addressing this quote:

>> Imagine if journalists generally presented contested claims as facts on the basis that it stands to reason the players involved wouldn’t lie or misrepresent about them. This is what I’m saying is bad journalism.

Going forward in your career, here seems like a good rule to follow. When reporting on cases of alleged rape, get the facts right. Including even facts that don’t seem to you to matter all that much. <<

First, your statement is incredibly patronizing. "Going forward in your career …" Really? Prof. Kipnis is a Full Professor in the Radio-TV-Film Department at Northwestern. She is the author of six books, and a number of essays in both academic and popular forums. She has gotten grants from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations and from NEA. I don't know how her career compares to yours because — well her public record is know-able, and yours is, well, anonymous. But, I am confident that hers compares favorably to your own, if not exceeds it — by maybe a LOT. I really think your offering of career advice here is … let's say, presumptuous.

Second, she is NOT a journalist. And, the Ludlow case was not the main point of her essay. And (by the way, this applies to you, too, Prescott), the investigation cleared her. You may not like that, but no matter how many hairs you want to split here, it is not going to change that reality.

And, with this final comment, I depart. The discussion, IMHO, has gone from nit-picking to micro-nit-picking. There's nothing further for me to learn here. Have fun.Report

Veteran
Veteran
5 years ago

Re-reading through this thread, I admit to being thoroughly confused, there is just so much slicing of minutae going on. As an admitted non-professional, but having taken the time to read everything I could find on this subject, it seems to me the bottomline question is whether or not Kipnis committed a Title IX violation with any of her published articles. Correct me if I am wrong, but what Ludlow did or did not do, alleged or otherwise, is beside that point. And what Kipnis did didn’t come close to being *anything* punishable.

By what possible desired outcome is an *opinion*, even *choosing* the side of an accused harasser, or expressed flippantly so dangerous that the mere statement of that opinion *must* be punished by any means necessary?

It doesn’t even matter if “we” get both sides of the story… we are NOT the judge and jury. Those who actually were have clearly spoken and exonerated Kipnis, part and parcel.

I get that people want to be on the right side of history when it comes to rape culture, and I do think there is an enormous process of change within Western culture driven by the “agency” displayed in this thread towards the goal of eradicating said culture.

But, my proverbial God… Kipnis wasn’t under oath and testifying in court, she wrote an *opinion* piece expressing her *opinion* about a situation. You can disagree with her ALL you want, fair do, but damn in one of the very few professions where you would *think* participants would agree on the free exchange of ideas, philosphers are all for shutting it down?

Damn.Report

Andrew
Andrew
5 years ago

“Your comment shows why lawyers are at least a huge help. Your argument shows, I think, that content alone doesn’t make something retaliation. You say that intent to cause harm is needed.
I’d bet you are wrong about intent; the reasonable person clause probably covers what is needed – ie, you could have fforeseen. I’d bet speaker’s position and venue make the difference. But I am not a lawyer.”

Are you betting that a retaliatory intent or motive isn’t required for retaliation? If so, I’m puzzled by the puzzlement regarding the relationship between intent and Title IX (or, VII) retaliation. I thought it was pretty well-settled that retaliation requires an intent or motive to retaliate. See, e.g., Frazier v. Fairhaven Sch. Comm., 276 F.3d 52, 67 (1st Cir. 2002) (“Modifying the retaliation paradigm to fit the educational context, a plaintiff may establish a prima facie case for a Title IX retaliation claim by alleging facts sufficient to show that she engaged in activity protected by Title IX, that the alleged retaliator knew of the protected activity, that the alleged retaliator subsequently undertook some action disadvantageous to the actor, and that a retaliatory motive played a substantial part in prompting the adverse action.”); Sanchez v. Henderson, 188 F.3d 740, 746 (7th Cir. 1999) (noting that where a defendant claims to have a valid, non-retaliatory reason for the allegedly adverse action, a plaintiff can maintain the retaliation claim only by showing that the reason is pretextual “directly, with evidence suggesting that retaliation or discrimination was the most likely motive for the termination, or indirectly, by showing that the employer’s proffered reason was not worthy of belief.”).

Are there cases out there suggesting that a retaliatory motive or intent is not required for retaliation?Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Andrew, IIRC, there’s case law in the Title VII context, and some reason to think from the OCR and DOJ too, that retaliation is understood as an adverse action (would have dissuaded a reasonable person) as a causal result of having engaged in protected conduct where there is no non-pre-textual, legitimate, non-discriminatory, reason for that adverse action. While there are lots of folks here and elsewhere claiming that retaliatory motive is a requirement for retaliation, I do actually think this is a fuzzy and evolving area of law and that the idea that a conscious intent to retaliate in the common sense understanding of the word “intent” is not reflective of wide standards. And, of course, regardless of what the law says, retaliation in a university context, even in Title IX complaints, is not held to the standard of the law but rather the standard of university policies (which are, not always, but often, quite different).Report

DC
DC
5 years ago

@[email protected]:
“Andrew, IIRC, there’s case law in the Title VII context, and some reason to think from the OCR and DOJ too, that retaliation is understood as an adverse action (would have dissuaded a reasonable person) as a causal result of having engaged in protected conduct where there is no non-pre-textual, legitimate, non-discriminatory, reason for that adverse action.”

I don’t think that is accurate; the federal regulations pretty clearly require discriminatory intent to retaliate. I think what you’re thinking about is the fact that the courts may legally find intent if the trier of fact can’t find a non-pre-textual, legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for that action, but that’s something far different than not requiring intent at all. The OCR and DOJ do seem to downplay the intent requirement in their “guidance materials” but they’re pushing a specific policy and ideology towards Title IX and plenty of what they say would get dismantled by any reasonable judge if they tried arguing it in court. A DOE attorney who tried to argue in this case that Kipnis’ essay was intended to retaliate against this specific student would possibly be sanctioned (and the case wouldn’t survive a motion to dismiss) as there is no legitimate, reasonable argument on that front. I do think it’s important to reiterate that these agencies do not determine the law, and while courts will give their interpretations of the statute and the code deference, they will not let them just ignore aspects of either.

“While there are lots of folks here and elsewhere claiming that retaliatory motive is a requirement for retaliation, I do actually think this is a fuzzy and evolving area of law and that the idea that a conscious intent to retaliate in the common sense understanding of the word “intent” is not reflective of wide standards”

Intent in American law has a very specific meaning that has been well-defined by centuries of jurisprudence–rather than “fuzzy” I would argue the term is better-defined than the “common sense” term. I will admit that the DOE and DOJ are trying to make it seem a little fuzzy in their guidance documents, but that appears mostly to push schools into vigorously enforcing Title IX rather than as a dispassionate explanation of what the law and code actually says.

“And, of course, regardless of what the law says, retaliation in a university context, even in Title IX complaints, is not held to the standard of the law but rather the standard of university policies (which are, not always, but often, quite different).”

That’s a different argument, though. A school can put into play bizarre disciplinary rules, but they can’t legitimately link them to Title IX, which is what Northwestern did here. If they want an overbroad retaliation prohibition that includes activity well outside the scope of the law and the authority of the Department of Education, then fine, but don’t do it under cover of Title IX.Report

Andrew
Andrew
5 years ago

“I do actually think this is a fuzzy and evolving area of law and that the idea that a conscious intent to retaliate in the common sense understanding of the word “intent” is not reflective of wide standards.”

I’m not denying that there are cases that muddy the question — with respect to virtually any legal question, there are some cases swimming against the stream. But, I’d like to see citations to a couple. The cases that I’ve looked at explicitly require a retaliatory intent or motive. It’s not enough that the protected activity is a but-for cause of the allegedly adverse action. Instead, these cases hold that a retaliatory motive must be the but-for cause of the allegedly adverse action. “The causal-connection element of a prima facie retaliation claim requires the employee to show that the employer’s motive for taking adverse action was its desire to retaliate for the protected activity. If the employee can show that the employer’s proffered reason for taking adverse action is false, the fact finder could infer that the employer was lying to conceal its retaliatory motive.” Wells v. Colorado Dep’t of Transp., 325 F.3d 1205, 1218 (10th Cir. 2003).Report

Paul Prescott
Paul Prescott
5 years ago

Carnap raises a very good question (in my opinion): Am I asserting that Ludlow *lied* in his court filings about easily disprovable matters. The answer is ‘no,’ I’m asserting that’s possible (I’m not in a position to know). Here’s what I’m suggesting: I’m suggesting that claims of a consensual relationships are so common in cases of allegations of rape that such claims have no epistemic weight whatsoever. What Ludlow and/or his lawyers say could be true. It could be false. But the fact that he asserted it, under the conditions in which it was asserted, is no reason to accept it as true. This is not to say that, in this particular instance, Ludlow is lying. Rather, it is only to say that, in such cases, we have no reason to take his word for it. In short, it is to say that in ALL such cases, under such circumstances, the word of the accused is unreliable without independent corroboration.Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
5 years ago

Paul Prescott, first of all, I’ll ask you the same question I asked Anonymous above: did you read Ludlow’s complaint? What do you make of the references to physical evidence, the existence of which he believes to substantiate his claim of a prior consensual relationship (on which point, judging by their verdict, the internal investigation agreed)?

Second, I’d just like to note that, in the abstract and without any further information, the word of an accuser is no more or less unreliable than the word of the accused. It may be the case that in this particular instance the accused is more unreliable, but that’s a separate issue. One of the main reasons I have bothered weighing in on this discussion at all, and I think this goes for most of the people stepping in to defend Kipnis, is the recent shift in procedural standards when it comes to allegations of sexual assault. Specifically, in situations where there is no objective evidentiary record, and we are thus left with one person’s word against another, increasingly the word of the accuser is being taken as dispositive in and of itself (“trust the victim”). If you don’t see the problem here, I will be happy to attempt to explain it, but for now I will only say that I think this is a dangerous and unwelcome development.

Third and finally: again, the Title IX complaint seems to hang on the difference between “dating” and “having a ‘consensual sex relationship.'” Do you think this is an important enough difference to warrant the complaint of retaliation?Report

Get it right
Get it right
5 years ago

Paul, the easily disprovable (if false) claim of Ludlow’s is not that the relationship was consensual.

It’s that the accuser FORMALLY TOLD THE INVESTIGATOR that it was consensual.Report

Carnap
Carnap
5 years ago

Paul [email protected] – thanks for taking the question seriously and responding. However, I think Get it [email protected] has got it right.Report

DC
DC
5 years ago

:

“I’m suggesting that claims of a consensual relationships are so common in cases of allegations of rape that such claims have no epistemic weight whatsoever”

Well they’re common because a lot of rape is carried out in consensual relationships; one of the great victories in the history of American law was the recognizance that consent to a relationship did not automatically create a consent to sex. While claims of consent to sex by someone accused of rape are so common as to merit no epistemic weight, that is a different thing than consent to a relationship.

But it also seems to me to be a shifting argument on the part of people who supported the Title IX investigation against Kipnis (and I’m not accusing you of making this shift yourself, just noticing it in aggregate) from “it’s retaliation!” to “it’s arguably retaliation!” to “it might not arguably be retaliation but she evaluated the credibility of a claim inappropriately even if not necessarily inaccurately, and even though we don’t know the victim we can presume to explain how she felt about it.” In any event we are far away from the very important question as to the scope of Title IX, or whether potential inaccuracies in an opinion piece constituted retaliation or could be presumed to cause harm. The question isn’t whether Kipnis committed some epistemic infraction, but rather if a federal law can be used to dictate public speech.Report

Paul Prescott
Paul Prescott
5 years ago

Hi Onion Man – Here are my replies, for whatever they may be worth:

To (1): Yes, I did. My take is one of agnosticism, for precisely the reasons previously cited.

To (2): I do see (or think I see) the difficulty to which you allude. I don’t have a satisfactory answer for you except to say that, in this case, we appear to be confronting a situation in which the traditional impartiality between parties may not hold.

To (3): No. I don’t think any of this necessarily rose to the level of warranting a complaint of retaliation. But, current circumstances being what they are, I can certainly understand how it did.Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
5 years ago

Hi Paul Prescott, and thanks for the considered reply. It appears we’re on the same page, at least as far as those questions are concerned.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

@The Onion Man–Anonymous 132 here.

My reply to your question is that my opinions about “what to make” of the complaint don’t rise to the level of knowledge, and so it would be irresponsible to speculate.

In general, people say things in legal documents for lots of different reasons: it could be the truth, it could be a lie, it could be a bluff or part of a legal strategy, it could be a sincerely held but false belief, it could be a matter of interpretation, etc. I don’t know which applies here.

It’s a mug’s game to try to divine the underlying facts in a legal dispute solely from what one side of the dispute says. You may have guesses about what the facts are, based on what that one side says, but your guesses don’t count for too much. My thought is that this is obvious, uncontroversial. Am I correct that you disagree?Report

Eric Brandon
Eric Brandon
5 years ago

The professor accused of the sexual misdeeds has resigned. This might shed some new light on these events. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/11/04/northwestern-philosophy-professor-resigns-during-termination-hearing-over-sexualReport