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NU Says Prof Engaged in ‘Inappropriate Sexual Advances,’ Was Disciplined

Northwestern University responded Friday to a student’s lawsuit that says the school did not act on her sexual harassment complaint.

A Northwestern University philosophy professor spent an evening in Chicago drinking with a freshman student, kissed her and slept in his bed with her, according to court papers the school filed on Friday in response to a lawsuit from the student.

The school says it disciplined the professor, Peter Ludlow, for his actions, including rescinding an appointment for an endowed professor position. He remains employed by the school.

The student, who was 19 at the time, according to ABC7, filed a lawsuit earlier this week in federal court saying the school failed to act on her sexual harassment complaint against Ludlow two years ago. Northwestern filed its response in court Friday and emailed a copy of the court papers to Patch. (You can read the PDF by clicking through above.)

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The school also released a statement from Alan K. Cubbage, vice president for university relations.

“Northwestern complied fully with its procedures, conducted a prompt and thorough investigation of all of the allegations made by the student to the University and took a number of corrective and remedial actions in this matter,” the statement reads.

The statement also says that the student’s suit had “substantial inaccuracies” in it. “Northwestern has notified the attorney for the student plaintiff about the inaccuracies, and the attorney has indicated that he will file an amended complaint and correct press statements,” it says.

A night of drinking in Chicago

The following is an account of what happened in Feb. 2012 based on the court papers. Patch is not identifying the student. Ludlow is not named as a defendant in the suit.

The student took a class from Ludlow during the fall semester of her freshman year. The following February, she sent him an email about an art event happening in Chicago that was related to his research and suggested he attend. Northwestern says the student also said she was planning to attend.

Ludlow responded that they should go together and he would drive.

The student says that Ludlow ordered alcoholic drinks for her at a restaurant, at the art event and at a bar. Northwestern agrees that the student was drinking but concedes only in each case that either the student or Ludlow ordered the drinks.

The student says that at one point, when she was feeling drunk, she asked Ludlow to take her  home. He refused and said they should “party together.”

The school responded by saying, “Northwestern lacks knowledge or information sufficient to admit or deny” the allegations, a response it repeats many times in the court papers.

The student says that around midnight, at a bar, “Ludlow commented on how attractive Plaintiff was and started to rub her back and kiss her.”

Northwestern responded by saying it admits, “that Ludlow engaged in unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances toward Plaintiff by initiating rubbing her back and kissing her.”

The student says they then went to Ludlow’s apartment where he “groped her breast and buttocks.” The school says its investigation did not conclude that happened, but does agree that the student “woke up in Ludlow’s bed at approximately 4:30 a.m. with Ludlow’s arms around her.”

The aftermath

The student soon told another faculty member what had happened and the school’s director of sexual harassment prevention, Joan Slavin, was notified and “immediately began an investigation,” Northwestern says. It says the investigation did not include all the allegations in the court case, though did not specify what was left out.

The student says the school refused to tell her what disciplinary measures had been taken against Ludlow. The school denies this.

Ludlow was disciplined by being denied a raise the following school year and having an appointment to an endowed professor position rescinded. The school also prohibited him from dating students or having sexual relationships with them, and prohibited him from providing alcohol to underage students. He also had to complete a “sensitivity/harassment-prevention training program.” At no point did any university committee recommend that Ludlow be fired, the school says.

In the meantime, the student said she was traumatized by seeing Ludlow on campus after the incident.

Shortly after the evening in question, she attempted suicide and was hospitalized and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, she says in the court papers. She missed classes for fear of running into Ludlow, had panic attacks so severe that she couldn’t leave home at times, dropped out of a planned study abroad program so she could continue counseling, and had to leave school early one semester to see her mother out of state who was suffering health problems because of her daughter’s situation.

Northwestern says it helped the student with her classes and allowed her to drop classes without financial repercussions.

“Ludlow’s assault on Plaintiff, Ludlow’s presence on campus, her encounter with him after the assault, and the accompanying risk that she would encounter Ludlow in the future created a hostile environment that effectively deprived her of the educational opportunities and benefits provided by the school,” her papers state.

“Northwestern denies the allegations,” the school responded.

Benny G. March 03, 2014 at 03:26 PM
Love for this to go to trial, which it will not, and hear the testimony of the psychologist who diagnosed her with PTSD...LOL
Benny G. March 03, 2014 at 03:34 PM
Teachers have a moral and ethical obligation along with signing a University policy document not to bang or attempt to bang students so regardless of "he said she said" this liver lipped mutt is in the wrong. NU will pay this girl off and move on. Unfortunately this happens all too often along with student on student date rape...
Robert Sprung March 03, 2014 at 06:03 PM
Fuck that professor. He should be fired and then some
David Dickson March 03, 2014 at 07:23 PM
Merrill, I think I can explain the dichotomy, why men are not as attuned to rape as women are. Many women are cognizant of rape on a constant basis. Most women will not walk alone after dark, because of the fear of being accosted or raped. They can't drink too much, or they are in danger of being taken advantage of or raped, which happens frequently in a University setting. Statistics have shown that about 1/4 of women at some point in their life have been raped (more often than not it is date rape). If a woman hasn't been date raped, she is likely to know someone who has been, and has had to console that person regarding the horror of what happened. More often than not, these women require years of counseling. It is not uncommon for a woman to contemplate and even attempt suicide after being so violated. Most women will not tell their male friends about what happened to them; it is too painful and vulnerable. Men need to be more aware of what women face on a daily basis. It is part of our responsibility as men to be protective and honorable toward women, not to "get what we can". If more men took this approach, the world would be a much better and safer place.

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