Students carry mattresses, pillows to protest professor’s controversial article


Olivia Exstrum/Daily Senior Staffer

Students carry mattresses and pillows to the Rebecca Crown Center on Monday morning to protest a Northwestern professor’s opinion piece on relationships between professors and students. About 30 students marched and posted signs at the Crown Center.

Olivia Exstrum, Campus Editor

About 30 students marched to the Rebecca Crown Center carrying mattresses and pillows Monday morning to protest a lack of a reaction from administration after Communication Prof. Laura Kipnis wrote an opinion piece Feb. 27 criticizing strict rules against professor and student relationships.

The students delivered a petition to administrators after the march urging NU to address the article.

After walking from the Kellogg School of Management, students put their handprints in white paint on a mattress and had the opportunity to speak about the articleDean of Students Todd Adams; Tara Sullivan, director of student conduct and conflict resolution and Carrie Wachter, coordinator of sexual violence response services and advocacy at the Center for Awareness, Response and Education all joined the circle of students during the discussion. Adams said the University would “absolutely” consider the petition.

“I think it’s terrific that they’ve gotten together and decided they want their voice heard on this issue,” Adams told The Daily. “I think that’s always been important since not just last year … it’s tremendous and it’s good to see students continue having it at the forefront.”

A Violence Against Women Act working group had met in Rebecca Crown that morning, Adams said. He said the group comprises administrators and plans to bring in students to look at the VAWA amendments that need to be in place in the University’s sexual misconduct policy by July 1.

The march was organized by Title IX at NU. Weinberg junior Erik Baker, who helped organize the event, read the petition aloud at the event. By Monday’s event, Baker said the petition had received 62 signatures.

“We, the undersigned, are therefore calling for a swift, concrete and direct response from the University, affirming its commitment to its own sexual misconduct policy,” the petition said. “We call for a swift, official condemnation of the sentiments expressed by Professor Kipnis in her inflammatory article. … We should not have to ask the University to defend its own policy, survivors and broader community.”

During the discussion, students expressed their disappointment with various aspects of Kipnis’ piece. Weinberg senior Akosua Owusu-Akyaw said she didn’t agree with Kipnis’ comments on feminism.

“I feel like there is this idea in America that being a feminist is ‘joining the boys’ club’ and becoming part of the power structure,” she said. “That’s not okay … you’re erasing the very traumatic experience of people when you’re saying that people are whining or being childish.”

Weinberg senior Jazz Stephens, who also helped organize the event, said she is concerned about a lack of campus response to the article.

“I think if this were a voice in isolation it would be less terrifying,” Stephens said, “but I’ve heard around the school things that are said in academia and outside of academia — victim blaming, slut shaming. … We need to be setting aside spaces to talk about that.”

Baker said by delivering the petition, he hopes the group will be able to get an official statement from the University on the matter.

University spokesman Al Cubbage told The Daily on Tuesday the students will meet with Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president of Student Affairs. University President Morton Schapiro on Tuesday told The Daily he would consider the petition.

Owusu-Akyaw said when she saw Kipnis’ piece she had a “very visceral reaction.”

“For me, it was very annoying to see her conflate struggles together … to erase people’s difficult struggles by putting on a mask that this is just how life is,” she told The Daily. “We thought this needed some kind of reaction … We’re not going to just sit here and wait for nothing to happen.”

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