This site is filled with multiple stories of how Title IX has been used to bludgeon schools into railroading male students for sexual assault charges. However, I must admit that this is unlikely to sway a great many people. When men are accused of such a heinous crime, folks — especially parents — still want to err on the side of caution and to get the accused away from women while evidence is gathered.
However, there may be a new face emerging to illustrate just how much of a problem Title IX has become: liberal Northwestern University film professor Laura Kipnis.
Kipnis wrote an essay taking issue with the school’s policy on dating between faculty and students, unintentionally igniting a firestorm from people who claimed the essay itself made them feel unsafe:
In March 2015, news reached Laura Kipnis, a high-profile professor who teaches film-making at Northwestern University, Illinois, that a group of students had staged a protest against her in response to an essay she had written in a journal called the Chronicle of Higher Education. She was, to say the least, nonplussed. For one thing, the students had carried with them mattresses and pillows, items that since 2014 have been a symbol of student-on-student assault. (This is due to Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia University student who spent a year dragging a mattress around as a piece of performance art to protest over the university’s ruling in a sexual assault complaint she filed against another student.)
Why, Kipnis wondered, had they done this? Her essay was about new codes in American universities prohibiting professor-student relationships, not sexual assault. For another, part of her argument with these new rules was that in addition to infantilising students, they would only heighten the accusatory atmosphere on campus. When the students spoke of their “visceral reaction” to her article and demanded that the authorities protect them from her “terrifying” ideas, they appeared to her only to be proving her point on both counts.
The original piece is long, but illuminating. Kipnis has written a book based on both her experiences as the piece of metal caught between the hammer of students who are easily offended and the anvil of Title IX and those of other people with similar experiences.
Title IX may well be the poster child for the Law of Unintended Consequences. While the law was originally intended to create an equal playing field for men and women, it has done something very different. Kipnis is simply one of the few women to speak up after experiencing how the law is used to bludgeon people into “believing” any and all who allege any form of sexual misconduct.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that even Kipnis’ experiences will be enough to stem the tide of Title IX abuses. It’s going to take a lot more.