Hundreds of individuals, including numerous faculty members at Northwestern University, have presented administrators with a petition demanding answers and greater transparency in the wake of a student’s sexual harassment lawsuit against the university.
The lengthy document accuses the university of a “failure of judgment” in handling the young woman’s case.
The student, now a Northwestern junior, charged that she was fondled and propositioned by philosophy professor Peter Ludlow during a trip to an art show in downtown Chicago in February of 2012.
She filed the Title IX suit against the university, accusing administrators of not doing enough to follow up on her complaint, even though the Northwestern office of Sexual Harassment Prevention found that he had clearly stepped over the line.
“We believe Northwestern has compiled a record of poor choices,” the petition states. “When internal findings document misconduct, especially misconduct consistent with violation of state or federal laws, Northwestern should prioritize campus safety and stand firmly on the side of those who have the least power and privilege.”
After an investigation of the student’s complaints, the university found that the professor had engaged in “unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances” toward the student, including kissing her and informing her of his desire to have a sexual relationship with her. He was denied a pay raise and stripped of an endowed chair. But the university stopped short of firing Ludlow, and he is still teaching.
As of midday Monday the petition had more than 300 signees, some of whom identified themselves as concerned citizens or Northwestern alumni.
“I am a Northwestern faculty member in History and Asian American Studies,” wrote Ji-Yeon Yuh, in signing the petition. “In my 15 years here, two of my female undergraduate students have been victimized by male faculty. We need to better protect our students.”
“As an alum, a faculty member, and a member of the community, I believe our students should both feel safe and be safe,” added another instructor, Jeff Rice. “We have to assure them that this is the case.”
Faculty member Robert Nelson said it is critical that instructors guard the safety of their students. “Our students need to trust us,” he said. “We as a community must be worthy of that trust.”