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Laura Kipnis Is Cleared of Wrongdoing in Title IX Complaints

Laura Kipnis, the Northwestern University professor who became the subject of two Title IX complaints after publishing an essay in The Chronicle Review, has been cleared of wrongdoing by the university under the federal civil-rights law, which requires colleges to respond to reports of sexual misconduct.

Ms. Kipnis said in an interview on Sunday that she received two letters Friday night from the law firm Northwestern had hired to investigate both complaints. In each case, the firm judged that the ”preponderance of evidence does not support the complaint allegations.”

In the Review essay, published in February, Ms. Kipnis decried a prevailing “sexual paranoia” on college campuses. She alluded to Peter Ludlow, a professor of philosophy at Northwestern who has been accused of sexual misconduct by students in two separate instances. Shortly thereafter, two graduate students filed complaints against Ms. Kipnis with Northwestern’s Title IX coordinator, arguing that the professor’s piece had misrepresented and impugned one of Mr. Ludlow’s accusers and had had a “chilling effect” on students’ ability to report sexual misconduct.

Ms. Kipnis, a professor in the department of radio, television, and film, detailed the investigation that followed in another Review essay, published on Friday. “What I very much wanted to know,” she wrote, “was whether this was the first instance of Title IX charges filed over a publication.”

The complainants have 10 days to appeal the Title IX decisions, and Northwestern has yet to rule on whether Ms. Kipnis’s first Review essay violated a nonretaliation provision of the faculty handbook. (Ms. Kipnis declined to discuss other details of the law firm’s findings, saying she was free to disclose only the overall outcomes of the complaints.)

Meanwhile, debate over the episode continues. In a post on the philosophy blog Daily Nous, Justin Weinberg, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina at Columbia, took issue with Ms. Kipnis’s portrayal of the Title IX cases as overreach. “It turns out that the process she had been demonizing — which of course may have its flaws — pretty much worked, from her point of view,” Mr. Weinberg wrote.

Ms. Kipnis said she had been “pretty inundated” by email messages since the publication of the second Review article. “Most people seem to be pretty amazed and perturbed,” she said.

More broadly, the professor said, the investigations have made her examine issues related to Title IX and academic freedom more closely than when she wrote the February piece that set off the firestorm. “I do feel a bit more of an activist than I was,” she said.

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