‘Unwanted Advances’ Tackles Sexual Politics in Academia

Jennifer Senior in the New York Times:

06BOOKKIPNIS1-articleInline-v2Read enough stories about the madness whipping through college campuses right now, and you can’t help but wonder if our institutions of higher learning have put the “loco” in in loco parentis. There was once a time when America’s students and faculty were united in their desire to defend their free-speech prerogatives, but no longer: Universities are now hypervigilant about protecting students from ideas that might be considered offensive or traumatizing, and many students are hyper-assertive in their demands to be protected from them.

I do not want to reduce the turbulence on today’s college campuses to caricature. (Though last month’s flare-up at Middlebury, which turned a planned colloquy into a crime scene, makes for a pretty fat target.) Those who defend trigger warnings, safe spaces and “empathetic correctness” have reasons for doing so, and no one wants vulnerable young people to experience gratuitous suffering.

But it’s also hard to ignore the irony here: Universities are now terrible places to find political heterogeneity. Campus discourse has become the equivalent of the supermarket banana. Only one genetic variety remains.

Among the educators who recently found herself at the treacherous intersection of free speech and sensitivity politics is Laura Kipnis, a film professor, cultural critic and dedicated provocateur at Northwestern University. Responding to a new campus directive that prevented professors from dating undergraduates, she wrote an essay for The Chronicle of Higher Education in February of 2015 entitled “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe.” Within days of publication, she was brought up on Title IX complaints for creating a “hostile environment.” She spent 72 days in the public stockade for it, until the university cleared her of any wrongdoing.

More here.