Updated: Planned sit-in turns into protest of Northwestern’s sexual assault policies
March 4, 2014
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A planned sit-in of philosophy Prof. Peter Ludlow’s class Tuesday afternoon turned into a demonstration outside the office of Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Dean Sarah Mangelsdorf, where students demanded greater transparency on the University’s sexual assault policies and protested Ludlow’s continued employment.
University spokesman Al Cubbage said Mangelsdorf would not meet with students waiting on Sheridan Road while members of media organizations not affiliated with NU were present. Cubbage said Mangelsdorf would see a small group of students in her office, but protesters refused to separate.
Following a forum Monday on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination by higher education organizations receiving federal funding, students decided to sit in and then walk out of Ludlow’s 12:30 p.m. “Philosophy of Psychology” class to protest his continued employment by the University after a Medill junior filed a lawsuit claiming he sexually assaulted her in February 2012.
Ludlow cancelled the class Monday morning, but about 100 students gathered anyway to discuss the future of their movement and march to Mangelsdorf’s office, 1918 Sheridan Road.
Students left the sit-in at Harris Hall and gathered silently at The Rock for a few minutes, after which they proceeded to march through The Arch and down Sheridan Road to protest in front of the office. Some held signs with messages of support, including quotes from the online petition posted by concerned faculty after the University filed a response Feb. 21 denying any Title IX violations.
Weinberg freshman Angel Ayon opened dialogue by starting a group clap.
“This is a unity clap,” Ayon said. “We are here to protect our rights … we are going to change something here today.”
Weinberg juniors Laura Whittenburg and Jazz Stephens, who coordinated the protest, went into the office while students spoke to the gathered crowd about their demands of the University and their requests that NU handle sexual misconduct cases differently.
The dean’s office is ultimately responsible for Ludlow’s sanctions and recommended disciplinary action including rescinding Ludlow’s endowed professorship, denying him a pay raise for the 2012-13 academic year and requiring him to take sensitivity classes.
University Police, including Chief Bruce Lewis, were present to make sure the protest proceeded “safely,” said Dan McAleer, UP deputy chief.
Cubbage addressed students and agreed to relay messages to Mangelsdorf. He also reiterated Tuesday’s statement from the Title IX Coordinating Committee, saying NU is committed to the values of Title IX.
“I understand clearly it may not have answered all of your concerns,” he said. “We very much do appreciate our students and our faculty and our staff raising these issues.”
While protesting, students demanded a forum with University administrators, Ludlow’s termination and more accountability and transparency from NU regarding its sexual misconduct policies.
SESP sophomore Jessica Arnold told the crowd that the student who filed the lawsuit is not the only one to be sexually assaulted at NU. Many are afraid to speak out, she said.
“When people do come forward and people are so brave, no one will help them,” Arnold said.
While they protested Ludlow’s employment, many recognized the issue was larger than one student’s story.
As students gathered in Harris before the march, Whittenburg thanked them for coming, calling it “a victory” that Ludlow had cancelled his class. The group has gotten the University’s attention, but the fight is not over, she said.
“They have not made the changes that we are wanting to see here. They have not taken Professor Ludlow out of the classroom and they have not made the changes that we believe are necessary,” Whittenburg said. “Let’s not be complacent and let’s keep going.”