A Northwestern University student who sued the University earlier this month, accusing them of failing to adequately follow up on her allegations of sexual harassment against a professor, is now suing that professor in state court. And the school’s student government organization has weighed in on the matter, demanding that the University reform its sexual harassment policies.
The woman, now a Northwestern junior, filed suit against philosophy professor Peter Ludlow, accusing him of violations of the Illinois Gender Violence Act. In her complaint, she reiterated her allegations that Ludlow plied her with alcohol, kissed and fondled her against her wishes during an outing to an art event in downtown Chicago in February 2012. Drifting in and out of consciousness, the woman said at one point she woke up in an elevator en route to Ludlow’s apartment, where he told her it was “inevitable” that they would have sex. The woman alleges she finally convinced Ludlow to take her home, but only after she woke up in his bed, her clothes askew.
The woman does not allege an actual sexual act, but says in her new complaint that Ludlow told her he had “slept with students before when he was at other schools.”
An investigation by Northwestern’s Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention found that Ludlow had “engaged in unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances” and that he had violated the University’s sexual harassment policy. He was stripped of an endowed chair in philosophy and denied a pay raise, but remains in the classroom, with an admonition not to date or engage in sexual relationships with students.
That sparked a firestorm of protest from Northwestern faculty members and students, hundreds of whom have signed a petition asking for answers from the administration. And last night, the University’s Student Government organization added its voice, endorsing a series of reforms including the immediate suspension of any staff or faculty member found to be in violation of the school’s sexual harassment policy.
In a letter to the editor of the school’s student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, Noah Star, a member of the student senate executive board, said the group hoped its actions at last night’s meeting can help push a policy for reforming the University’s approach to such incidents in the future.
“The Board of Trustees must take notice,” he said. “Professors are taking a stand. Students are taking a stand. We will not give up because our safety is on the line.”
In her complaint filed yesterday in state court, the student seeks punitive damages and damages for emotional distress.
“Defendant’s physical contact with Plaintiff was sexual in nature,” the suit states, “was harmful and offensive, was done intentionally and knowingly, and was done without Plaintiff’s consent.”
Through his attorney, Ludlow has denied wrongdoing and said it was the young woman who was the aggressor. He is a candidate for a teaching position at Rutgers University, but a spokesman says his hiring there is under review, pending an investigation of the Illinois allegations.