Northwestern University students held a noon-hour protest Tuesday in a classroom where philosophy professor Peter Ludlow was supposed to be teaching. Ludlow abruptly canceled the class when he got wind of the demonstration, targeted at the professor by students and faculty who are angry that he still has a job at the prestigious university.
At issue, a student’s claims that Ludlow fondled and propositioned he, during an outing to an art show in downtown Chicago in February 2012. The young woman is suing the university on a Title IX complaint that administrators did not do enough to follow up on her allegations, even though a university investigation concluded that Ludlow had violated the school’s sexual harassment policy.
“We want professor Ludlow out of the classroom,” said organizer Laura Whittenburg. “We don’t understand why a faculty member who Northwestern has found had unwelcome sexual advances with a student is still on this campus, teaching undergraduate students.”
In an email to the Northwestern University community Tuesday morning, university officials said they felt they were already meeting many of the requests being made by those who are angered by Ludlow’s continued presence. The university stopped short, however, at a call for a committee outside of Northwestern to oversee the school’s sexual harassment complaint process.
About a hundred students took part in the demonstration inside Ludlow’s empty classroom in the university’s historic Harris Hall. Then, most continued in a silent march across campus, to the offices of the College of Arts and Sciences.
“The University needs to come out and needs to say that what they did was wrong and that they are working on changing the system,” said sophomore Jessica Albert. “Or else we have no faith in the system.”
Once the group reached the dean’s office, it appeared they would be granted an audience. But a university spokesman said the presence of reporters at the rally made that impossible.
“Neither she nor I think it’s a good idea to have that conversation, standing out here right now with the media from outside the university being a part of that conversation,” said Vice President Alan Cubbage.
Cubbage offered to escort a smaller contingent of students inside for a private meeting with the Dean. They declined that invitation, and suggested they will return to Harris Hall when Ludlow is scheduled to teach again on Thursday.
“He did cancel his class, which is a huge victory for us,” Whittenburg said. “Because if Northwestern won’t take him out of the classroom, we will!”
Neither Ludlow nor his attorney immediately responded to a request for comment.