Northwestern University admitted Friday that it took disciplinary action against a professor accused of sexually harassing a female student, after finding that he did indeed violate the University's sexual harassment policy. The school revealed for the first time that it warned professor Peter Ludlow to stay away from the student, and advised him not to have any one-on-one contact with any of his other students.
But Ludlow was not removed from teaching duties. And in a lengthy legal brief filed in Federal Court, the University denied that it retaliated against the student who made the claim.
The student, now a junior, alleged in a Title IX suit brought against Northwestern, that the University failed to adequately follow up on her claims that Ludlow groped and sexually harassed her on a visit to an art show in downtown Chicago in early 2012.
"Since he had a reputation of being an uncle like figure on campus, I just didn't think this was going to be a traumatic night for me," the woman said. "He was older than both of my parents."
NU Student Details Professor's Alleged Harassment
But she alleged that what started as a rather mundane outing to an event at Columbia College devolved into repeated visits to bars, where Ludlow purchased alcohol for her, even though she continually reminded him she was underage. She says he kissed and fondled her during the evening, and that after she passed out, she woke up in his bed where he told her "it is inevitable we are going to have sex."
The woman says she finally convinced Ludlow to take her home, but alleged in her lawsuit that the trauma of the evening led to hospitalization and continuing bouts of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Through his attorney, Ludlow denied the allegations and insisted it was the student who was the aggressor. But the University said after its own investigation, there was a formal finding that he had engaged in "unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances" against the young woman, and that he had violated the University's sexual harassment policy.
NU Professor Defends Himself Against Student's Lawsuit
As a result, Friday's court filing said decisions were made to stop Ludlow from receiving a raise for the 2012-2013 academic year; the school rescinded his appointment to an endowed professor position (the John Evans Professor of Philosophy); they strongly advised him to avoid one-on-one social contact with any undergraduates; prohibited him from engaging or attempting to engage in a dating, romantic, or sexual relationship with any Northwestern student in the future; prohibited him from providing alcohol to underage students; required him to complete a multi-session sensitivity and harassment-prevention program; and directed him not to have any contact with the young woman who brought the complaint.
The school says it also reminded Ludlow that University policy "prohibits retaliation of any sort" against the student or any witness who helped her in filing her complaint. And they warned him that any similar behavior in the future or failure to comply with their sanctions, "would subject him to further sanctions, up to, and including separation from the faculty."
The University agreed with the student's allegation that Ludlow photographed her during the evening in question, and ordered him to remove any photos or mentions of the woman from his Facebook page. The University says it paid the woman's out-of-pocket medical bills, and various academic remedies.
In its filing, Northwestern denied that it knew the woman's PTSD symptoms became more severe because of repeated encounters with Ludlow on campus, creating what she called "hostile environment" which deprived her of educational opportunities. The University further denied that a committee convened to investigate the matter called for Ludlow's termination. To the contrary, they said a "Committee on Cause" unanimously approved the disciplinary sanctions levied against him, which fell short of his firing.
Ludlow issued a statement through his attorney last week, where he claimed to be in possession of text messages which would substantiate his claim that the student engaged in "friendly communications" with him the day after the alleged incident, and even attempted to meet with him.
In an interview, the woman called Ludlow's statement "victim blaming".
"I just wanted to see him so I could confront him," she said.