Students crossed their arms and whispered among themselves as author and professor Laura Kipnis, known for her controversial stance on sexual assault on college campuses with her belief that Title IX has too much power, spoke on campus Oct. 4.
“When it comes to sexual culture, the definition is changing,” Kipnis said during her talk. “This definition comes with hazards, and these hazards come with expansion of regulation. Administrators are going along with a new way of framing consent, and Title IX is expanding the criminalization of the accused.”
About 40 attended the event, which was open to the public.
Kipnis is known for having two Title IX cases filed against her, supporting a colleague who engaged in sexual misconduct with two graduate students at Northwestern University and for taking a controversial stance on sexual assault through her publications.
Kipnis’s main argument was that “there is no distinct definition of what sexual assault means,” and that actions now considered sexual assault under Title IX are too broad.
Kipnis also argued that women should be taking a role in their own protection and decision-making process, she said, and women should be more self-aware of their own actions.
At the event, Kipnis discussed her book, “Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus,” and her experience with being charged for exploitation by a student under Title IX.
Kipnis spoke for about an hour. Chapman’s Lead Title IX Coordinator DeAnn Yocum Gaffney and Lisa Leitz, the chair of the peace studies program, spoke for 10 minutes in response to Kipnis, which left 10 minutes for a Q&A session.
Of three people who asked questions during the Q&A session, one was a student.
“I took notes during Kipnis’s talk, and I came (to the Q&A) with questions and concerns in mind, specifically regarding sexual assault within the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Haley Hopkins, a senior art major, who didn’t get to ask a question. “I wanted to ask Kipnis why she doesn’t recognize survivors, and instead calls them victims, and I felt like the students’ time was hijacked.”
Dean of Students Jerry Price said that the panel ended up speaking “more than anticipated” and that he had planned for a longer Q&A session.
Meg Moricca, a junior screenwriting major, said she felt that students were not given enough opportunity to voice their concerns at the event.
“I thought the way the three speakers presented their perspectives was well-done, and I respected that there were no attacks on character,” Moricca said. “I just wish more students had been able to be engaged in conversation.”
Leitz, who spoke after Kipnis, shared her experience with sexual assault and her concerns about Kipnis’s writings.
“I was failed by my undergraduate’s procedure of sexual assault. I proudly wear the label of survivor which I have to say, I was sad to see Kipnis denigrate,” Leitz said. ”The vast majority of cases that involve Title IX are not against professors, but are those that involve student-on-student complaints.”
When asked how she felt about Title IX’s success in protecting students from student assailants, Kipnis said that she did not have enough information to answer the question. This concerned CK Magliola, the director of the women’s studies minor program at Chapman.
“I think it is irresponsible of Kipnis to put out such specific ideas on Title IX and then not answer questions about it,” Magliola told The Panther after the event. “I don’t find her argument applicable to whom Title IX affects.”
Because Kipnis’s personal experience with Title IX has been exclusively with faculty-graduate student relationships, some students at the event expressed frustration with her arguments.
“I think that for someone who has access to Title IX cases like she does, Kipnis cherry-picked examples that hyperbolize the ideas she’s trying to convey,” Hopkins said. “I find that very unethical, and I don’t think she understands the complexity of undergraduate sexual assault on college campuses.”