The controversies regarding Title IX have now reached the New School. [1] Our president, David Van Zandt has stated this week that the New School will conduct a review of its policies and procedures, and that the “input from our students, faculty, staff, and academic leadership will be an important part of creating policy revisions following this review.” Since I have had some experience with our policies, as well as the controversies surrounding them, I would like to address these issues in writing. Undoubtedly, many others will do so as well: I hope that maximum and unfettered participation will be encouraged across the university.

As I see it, there are two dimensions of the problem and they should be separated. First, as it is clear now, problems of harassment, as well as apparently improper intimate relationships have existed at the New School as well as other institutions of higher learning. How bad the problems have been here we cannot know, both because of the secrecy of Title IX procedures, and also the likelihood that many forms of real or imagined abuse probably have not been reported. I have no knowledge of the unsubstantiated charges enumerated in a student newspaper that some of our administrators at The New School, as well as members of one of our Departments, have interfered with complaints and investigations. But if they were even partially correct, they nevertheless distort the over-all picture of the atmosphere at the New School.

But second, while the Title IX process at The New School has apparently not led to the type of abuses chronicled by Laura Kipnis in Unwanted Advances, the procedures are potentially as deficient here as elsewhere. As I have had the opportunity to experience twice as a faculty advocate, the rights of the accused are no better protected here than at many other institutions. We allow a single individual too much power to be investigator, judge, and jury at the same time. Replacing or supplementing that person by another, hiring an administrator trained as a Title IX investigator, is not a solution in and of itself. We have to my knowledge not expanded Title IX complaints to adjudicating the speech of Title IX critics, or to the conduct of faculty advocates as have some other universities. But as I have recently experienced in an email chain, there may now be a demand, if not yet a tendency, to extend Title IX to forms of speech and criticism not connected to actual acts of discrimination. Finally, in the case of a recent resignation for an alleged Title IX offense, the individual in question has subsequently been denounced to another university, which is now in the process of investigating and perhaps sanctioning him, although he committed no violation there, nor has he been convicted of a crime. Is this person now on some kind of “blacklist”?

I also want to raise the question of whether pre-emption might have unintended consequences. While offering sensitivity training and on line courses seeking to pre-empt harassment may be a good idea, the course we currently require seems to foster faculty surveillance of both colleagues and students, as well as third party reporting. That possibility of course might conceivably lead to the use of Title IX as an arena for other conflicts, or as an act of retribution.

Moreover, research suggests that training courses about sexual harassment do not affect the incidence of improper behavior . The astonishing fact that our faculty, composed of social scientists, philosophers, historians, psychologists and even lawyers, has not been asked to review and comment on such a program until last week should also be noted.

What should be done? We must of course have a full Faculty discussion of all relevant issues. I would like to ask my colleagues to consider the following proposals.

1. The Title IX procedures we currently have should be revised to secure the rights of both accusers and accused.

2. The sensitivity training courses should be revised to avoid establishing an atmosphere of surveillance and denunciation. It should be made clear that faculty members must be open to receiving and forwarding serious complaints, but that third party denunciation should be avoided.

3. It should be clearly stated that Title IX’s ban on discrimination should not be extended to speech concerning what is and what is not harassment, or debates over the interpretation of Title IX itself.

4. The university should however, also make it clear that individuals actively involved in suppressing harassment allegations are themselves potentially guilty of Title IX violations.

5. The New School should make much clearer that sexual or romantic relations between people of significant power differentials (not just faculty and students) are banned at our institution, as in effect they already seem to be. Seeking and receiving implicit permission for such liaisons from Human Resources should be eliminated.

6. Finally, it should be made clear that resignation by persons charged legitimately ends Title IX cases, and that neither The New School, nor any of its faculty, administrators or students should pursue those who have already received the very significant and painful sanction of being excluded from our community.

I am certain that there is a need for other proposals, many of which should be made by people more knowledgeable than many members of the faculty. We should especially hear from those who have had more direct experience, either as injured parties or as litigants in Title IX cases. However, there are problems on both sides of this issue, and that we need new remedies for both.

Footnotes:

[1] For a previous round, at another university see the statement of 28 Harvard Law Faculty

15 thoughts on “When Title IX Hits Home

  1. This article highlights the urgency of forefronting student voices right now. Please publish student voices instead of favoring paranoid cis white male protectionist voices like Arato’s that are intent on using this Title IX case as a tool to alleviate some professors’ fears of acknowledging their own power and of actually listening to marginalized students’ voices. This discourse only works to conceal the very abuses of power that many of us, as NSSR students, are trying to address and discuss and push against. If Public Seminar is aiming to represent the dominant discourses of The New School encountered by many students here, this article is a good example. But students are actively struggling against this, and I hope those who have the energy to speak can do so, and that Public Seminar does the extra labor of supporting disenpowered and tired voices in speaking at such a profoundly taxing time for us, and at an especially taxing time for those who broke the silences in my home department in the first place.

    1. We welcome alternative positions on the issue at the New School and beyond, and are very much looking forward to submissions that forefront student voices and concerns. Note, Claire Potter has also published a piece this afternoon. She and I explained the ground rules for submissions in a separate post.

    2. Emily: we have received no submissions from students, despite the fact that they (through you) were invited to submit. The invitation remains open.

          1. Sure thing. I’ll note though that it’s been publically circulating for weeks and was sent to every faculty member and student at the NSSR, which would have included several PS staff members. This and other instances of student activism are the main reason that this is even a topic of discussion, so I’m surprised that the editors wouldn’t have solicited the voices of students who have been working on this issue within our community before publishing this piece by Arato. It’s good to hear that this is being remedied now.

          2. I would also suggest including a link to the Stanford Daily article, since Arato casts aspersions on it (referring to its account of events as “unsubstantiated charges enumerated in a student newspaper”). To my knowledge, the New School was given opportunity to comment by the author of that article, and has also been given ample opportunity to comment on it at public gatherings of the Graduate Faculty Student Senate, and has declined to dispute it. It seems reasonable to give readers of Public Seminar the opportunity to read this account, in addition to Arato’s quasi-dismissal of it, since that article is at the center of this story: https://www.stanforddaily.com/2017/12/08/resigning-amid-title-ix-investigation-psychologist-joins-stanford-medicine/

          3. Readers of Public Seminar should know that we chose not to link this piece, in part because the sources are anonymous and we cannot verify its claims.The statement made by the GFSS also contains some factually incorrect information and unverifiable claims.

          4. No, the students were solicited last week and have not responded. I would also say that unless something is submitted to PS, we don’t publish it — why would we? I think perhaps that after break it would be a good idea for members of your group to meet with me and talk some of these issues out. and you might want to read this, which was published a week ago:

            http://www.publicseminar.org/2017/12/title-ix-investigations-and-sexual-harassment-at-the-new-school/

            We were not going to hold Professor Arato’s letter indefinitely while waiting for student submissions.

            Second, the Stanford Daily piece is anonymously sourced, which is why we did not link to it: it is not, in my view, responsible journalism, as it aired very serious claims for which no one is willing to be responsible and which cannot be fact checked. Arato and I may disagree on many things, but he is correct: they *are* unsubstantiated charges — just because the New School has declined to address them officially does not make them true, in whole or in part. You being willing to stand behind them and link to them is fine.

  2. The nerve of this article to use so many “I” statements in the midst of what is going on is almost repulsive. There have been a number of voices coming out, and we should hear them here. I urge Public Seminar to remove this article, which pedestals the voice of one, and publish others’ voices, rather than this redundancy of claims and facts when so many of our fellow New School peers have already courageously come forward. It’s an insult to the time and efforts so many in our community have sacrificed and forsaken.

    1. Kellie Ann: I am personally against “no platforming,” but PS also does not cherry pick submissions. This article was edited, by us, according to our editorial policies, and you are invited to submit.

  3. The article states: “Finally, it should be made clear that resignation by persons charged
    legitimately ends Title IX cases, and that neither The New School, nor
    any of its faculty, administrators or students should pursue those who
    have already received the very significant and painful sanction of being
    excluded from our community.” What does “pursue” mean here? It is dangerous to suggest that a complainant’s hands should be tied following a Title IX complaint, regardless of the outcome of the school’s investigation. It’s my understanding that a complainant has the right to pursue criminal/civil charges, make an OCR complaint, and pursue a variety of other options in addition to making a complaint to the school. It’s ridiculous to suggest that because an accused person faces the “significant and painful sanction of being excluded,” the complainant has to forego these rights. You’re basically asking a victim to play nice with a perpetrator just because it’s hard to be accused of hurting someone, acting unethically, or breaking the law.

  4. I have to give my colleague, Andrew, the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is playing a sort of devil’s advocate to foster dialogue, as it is otherwise unfathomable to me that he cannot see the problem with item #6 as articulated here, namely, a blanket statement that resignations by persons charged in Title IX investigations legitimately ends said investigation. Have we not seen enough of the damage done to individuals and communities when individuals are not held accountable, after due process, for abusive and exploitative behaviors that they committed (consider: the Catholic Church, elite boarding schools, NPR…to name those cases that garner most public attention) and who go on to repeat these offenses in their next institution or professional setting? In most other professions, the days of sweeping harassment and assault cases under the rug via resignation, buffered with non-disclosure agreements (beyond that which is required by law), are coming to an end.

    Moreover, and most importantly, this point loses sight of what Title IX is intended to be about, namely, the assurance of an educational environment free from sex/gender-based discrimination. That an individual charged in a Title IX claim has resigned does not itself guarantee that the claimant’s case regarding sex/gender based discrimination has been resolved.

    Of course, charged individuals have a right to due process (even if rational and informed individuals may disagree about the appropriate standard of evidence for such trials within academic settings). Similarly, a claimant ought to be guaranteed a thorough investigation that ensures that their right to educational experiences and related professional opportunities are not foreclosed or otherwise defined by sex/gender-based discrimination.

    1. I think this point begs another interesting question: what kinds of sanctions deliver justice to those have been harmed? I don’t think this question has been answered adequately, either at The New School, or anywhere else. Losing one’s job and reputation can be devastating consequences for the individual who is accused, but — like incarceration, or the death penalty, in criminal cases –may do little to repair the damage done. One of the conversations I am missing in this debate is what repair would look like from the perspective of students or faculty who find disgrace and unemployment to be an inadequate consequence — which perhaps makes it difficult to respond to those demanding justice. I confess: I myself cannot answer this question absent such a conversation.

Leave a Reply