Days before lawsuit over book, Kipnis was notified of Title IX complaint against her

Erica Snow, Campus Editor

Days before a Northwestern graduate student filed a lawsuit against Communication Prof. Laura Kipnis, the same student — and several other students and faculty members — filed a Title IX complaint against her.

The graduate student, who filed the lawsuit under the pseudonym Jane Doe, sued Kipnis and HarperCollins Publishers, LLC, for defamation and violation of privacy following the publication of her book, “Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus.” Part of the book discusses Doe, who filed a Title IX complaint in 2014 against former philosophy Prof. Peter Ludlow, claiming he had sexually assaulted her.

Kipnis told The Daily she was notified of the Title IX complaint on May 12, four days before Doe’s lawsuit was filed.

The Title IX complaint launched an investigation of Kipnis. In a New Yorker article published Wednesday, Kipnis said investigators presented her with “at least” 80 written questions about her book to clarify statements. Investigators also asked for her response to allegations that certain phrases were unnecessary and possibly evidence of retaliatory intent. Kipnis did not respond to questions, according to the New Yorker.

Instead, Kipnis told The Daily, she submitted a written statement to Title IX investigators on May 26. She told The Daily she was notified one month after learning about the Title IX complaint that the investigation had reached a conclusion.

According to the New Yorker, the University decided Kipnis did not retaliate or engage in sexual harassment by publishing certain details about the graduate student who had filed a lawsuit against her.

Jennifer Salvatore and Julie Porter — the two attorneys representing Doe — declined to comment.

University spokesman Al Cubbage declined to comment about the investigation.

“The University does not disclose if a Title IX complaint has been filed,” Cubbage said. “Such complaints, by their nature, are confidential, so the University can’t confirm if such a complaint has been filed.”

Kipnis declined to comment further on the complaint, investigation or statement she gave to Title IX investigators.

According to the New Yorker, Kipnis said in her May statement to investigators that the complaints “seem like an attempt to bend the campus judicial system to punish someone whose work involves questioning the campus judicial system.”

Kipnis told The Daily she has not heard any more information from the University since the conclusion of the Title IX investigation in June.

Doe sued Kipnis and her publisher on four counts, including public disclosure of private facts, false light invasion of privacy, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to the lawsuit.

Kipnis and HarperCollins filed a motion July 21 to dismiss the suit with prejudice because the student allegedly “cannot state any plausible claim for relief.” Doe filed a memorandum Aug. 21 in opposition to the motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing Doe “pleads defamation with precision and particularity.”

The lawsuit filed against Kipnis is pending.

This story was updated at 3:40 p.m. to include that Doe’s attorneys declined to comment. 

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