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Title IX should be used to demand article corrections, anti-rape activist says

This is one of the more novel uses of Title IX that we’ve seen advocated.

Erik Baker, a member of the group Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault at Northwestern University, wants to clear up some “misinformation” about the ordeal suffered by Laura Kipnis, the professor whose essay against campus “sexual paranoia” triggered Title IX complaints against not only her, but her faculty advocate.

In a letter to the editor of The Daily Northwestern, Baker argues in favor of using federal antidiscrimination law to demand… article corrections:

In contrast to the protest and petition, the Title IX complaints filed against Prof. Kipnis had nothing to do with the argument of the piece. Rather, they were filed because the article included crucial factual inaccuracies about a high-profile sexual assault case described in a personally identifying manner. Among these was the article’s original assertion that the professor in that case had a dating relationship with the graduate student who had accused him of assault, when, in reality, that relationship was merely alleged by the professor in a lawsuit. Kipnis refused to correct this and other inaccuracies herself when asked; this behavior gave the student grounds for charging that Kipnis was acting recklessly to create a hostile environment for the student.

Leave alone for a moment the “personally identifying” claim, which implies an unbounded standard for privacy that wouldn’t hold up even in privacy-obsessed Europe.

This claim that anyone speaking publicly about their opinion has to leave out their opinion on a disputed factual matter could be easily, immediately and overwhelmingly deployed against the vast majority of anti-rape activists, who vocally and proudly prejudge the guilt of every student accused of sexual misconduct. (Everyone facilitating the quixotic crusade by Columbia University’s “Mattress Girl,” Emma Sulkowicz, would be guilty of violating Title IX.)

“Victim” and “survivor” frequently make their way into not just quotes from these activists, but the language of reporters writing the news itself. Yet you don’t see accused students filing Title IX complaints against reporters and editors who, by their very choice of language, imply that every rape accusation is true.

Baker has a similarly tenuous grasp on privacy when asking to correct the record about the Title IX complaint against Prof. Stephen Eisenman, Faculty Senate president and Kipnis’s faculty advocate:

Eisenman did not just “publicly discuss” the case “in an academic setting.” He used his authority as president of the Faculty Senate to breach a confidentiality agreement that he had assented to as Prof. Kipnis’ support person in the Title IX process to misleadingly paint the complaints as a matter of “academic freedom.” Perhaps it is important to engage in ongoing “dialogue” about Kipnis’ argument in her essay, but, once more, the complaints had nothing to do with her argument – and even if they did, it would still be inappropriate and unprofessional of Eisenman to use his power to discuss an ongoing university investigation on the senate floor.

Baker is essentially asking for a total gag order to be placed on anyone tangentially involved in an investigation – to act as if there’s no investigation. That’s what the FBI did to anyone who received a Section 215 order under the Patriot Act until that provision expired earlier this month.

Eisenman didn’t name anyone in discussing the Kipnis case – he was discussing the larger issue of whether such investigations are a threat to academic freedom. That’s his obligation as president of the Faculty Senate, and it revealed nothing that had not already come out in news coverage.

Baker’s answer to the fraught issue of Title IX’s proper uses and limitations is basically “secrecy now, secrecy tomorrow, secrecy forever!”

Read the letter.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.