Chicago, IL- Students at Northwestern University are angry about the school’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against a philosophy professor, who they say was not appropriately disciplined.
In mid-February, a female student filed two lawsuits, one against Professor Peter Ludlow who she alleges sexually harassed her, and one against Northwestern because she said they did not address her allegations or appropriately discipline Ludlow.
The student, who lives in Evanston, came into Chicago one night to attend and art opening with Ludlow. As the night progressed she asked Ludlow to take her home but he refused and insisted she spend the night at his apartment instead where she passed out. She said when she woke up she was in his bed and he alleged he groped and tried to kiss her.
The student reported the incident to Northwestern, but said they took no action against Professor Ludlow.
In an unusual move, after the student’s sexual harassment lawsuit hit the national media, Northwestern, which typically does no comment on pending litigation, issued a statement stating that Professor Ludlow did violate their sexual harassment policy. However, Northwestern maintains that Ludlow’s harassment was not severe enough for him to be fired, according to Inside Higher Ed.
Northwestern said Ludlow’s discipline included a pay freeze, prohibiting him from having relations with a student, which is generally permitted under the school’s policy, and other sanctions. Ludlow will soon be leaving Northwestern.
But for the students, Ludlow’s punishment was too lenient and they staged a protest on campus Tuesday to express their outrage. Students originally planned a sit-in for Ludlow’s class, but he canceled it so students took to the campus for their impromptu protest. Students also held a demonstration at the office of the dean of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, but he refused to speak with the students.
Faculty at Northwestern were also angered by the light sanctions against Ludlow, and urged the university to reevaluate their sexual harassment and assault policies especially when a professor is accused of such misconduct.
In a petition launched by faculty, administrators at Northwestern were urged “to go above and beyond what is required by Title IX,” according to the Huffington Post.
After the campus protest, university spokesman Alan Cubbage emerged to read a prepared statement before the crowd. According to the Chicago Tribune, the statement read:
“We very much do appreciate our students and our faculty and our staff raising these issues, and we believe very strongly that Northwestern is a place that is committed to responding fully to any kind of complaints regarding sexual harassment, regarding sexual assault, and it is a place that very much values those things that are incorporated in Title IX.”
The controversy at Northwestern is one among many at college and university campuses across the country where students allege administrators too often allow incidents of sexual assault and harassment to go unaddressed and the offenders unpunished. Many believe the casual attitude towards sexual misconduct fosters a culture where it is allowed to persist.