Friday, May 29, 2015

Cautionary Tale

UCOP distributes a daily summary (with links) of news items related to higher ed and UC. A typical listing consists of excerpts from the article, editorial, or op ed plus a link to the original source. In some cases, even if access to the original source would normally require a paid subscription, the item - apart from the usual excerpt - is reproduced in full, presumably because someone has decided it merits special attention (and presumably with permission).

In today's email (screenshot of its masthead above) there is the following excerpt from the Chronicle of Higher Education concerning events at Northwestern University which is also reproduced further down in the email in full:

OP-ED: My Title IX Inquisition

(Chronicle of Higher Education) Laura Kipnis*

When I first heard that students at my university had staged a protest over an essay I’d written in The Chronicle Review about sexual politics on campus — and that they were carrying mattresses and pillows — I was a bit nonplussed. For one thing, mattresses had become a symbol of student-on-student sexual-assault allegations, and I’d been writing about the new consensual-relations codes governing professor-student dating. Also, I’d been writing as a feminist. And I hadn’t sexually assaulted anyone. The whole thing seemed symbolically incoherent.

According to our campus newspaper, the mattress-carriers were marching to the university president’s office with a petition demanding "a swift, official condemnation" of my article. One student said she’d had a "very visceral reaction" to the essay; another called it "terrifying." I’d argued that the new codes infantilized students while vastly increasing the power of university administrators over all our lives, and here were students demanding to be protected by university higher-ups from the affront of someone’s ideas, which seemed to prove my point.

The president announced that he’d consider the petition.

Still, I assumed that academic freedom would prevail.

… Things seemed less amusing when I received an email from my university’s Title IX coordinator informing me that two students had filed Title IX complaints against me on the basis of the essay and "subsequent public statements" (which turned out to be a tweet), and that the university would retain an outside investigator to handle the complaints.

… I’d plummeted into an underground world of secret tribunals and capricious, medieval rules, and I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about it.

For those with a subscription, the link is

New York Magazine picked up the story and it has a link within its article that provides full access to the item:
Click on the link in the sentence: "Now, Kipnis reports, the University has undertaken a Title IX investigation against her on the basis of her column and a subsequent tweet about it."

There is also a story on the Washington Post website which features the same link:

If you don't have a subscription to the Chronicle of Higher Ed, or if the links above to the full op ed don't work for you, yours truly will forward the UCOP News Clips email to you on request.

We have noted concerns about current efforts to create a UC process to deal with charges of sexual assault and harassment. The Regents have been assured by UC President Napolitano that there will be due process, etc. However, in reproducing the above article in full, perhaps someone at UCOP shares those concerns. Suffice it to say, what the Chronicle article describes should not be a possible outcome of the new process, whatever it turns out to be. We're glad that there is some sensitivity at UCOP that anything like what is described should not happen.

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