Updated: Student sues Northwestern, claiming University ignored sexual assault findings

Ciara McCarthy and Ally Mutnick

A Medill junior is suing Northwestern, alleging the school failed to act after she filed a sexual assault complaint against a professor two years ago.

The lawsuit claims the University handled the allegations with “deliberate indifference and retaliation,” according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by The Daily.

The student said philosophy Prof. Peter Ludlow sexually assaulted her following a downtown Chicago art show the two attended together in February 2012. According to the suit, filed Monday, Ludlow bought the student alcohol and ignored her repeated requests to return to Evanston, taking her to his apartment where she lost consciousness. The student said she regained consciousness early the next morning in Ludlow’s bed.

The student is suing the University for the payment of all past and future medical bills and education expenses, reparation for emotional distress and appropriate remedial actions, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit demands resolution through trial by jury.

The student reported the case to a faculty member, who passed it on to Joan Slavin, director of the Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention. After investigating, the lawsuit says, Slavin found Ludlow “engaged in unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances,” including “sleeping with his arms on and around (the student) on the night of February 10-11.”

About two days after the assault, the lawsuit says, the student attempted suicide.

Since then, according to the lawsuit, she has suffered continued severe health effects. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and remained in the hospital for about three days.

Kristin Case, Ludlow’s attorney, said Monday night the professor “denies all of (the) allegations contained” in the complaint. Ludlow is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

“Out of respect for all parties involved we have no further comment,” Case wrote in an email to The Daily.

The suit says the University formed a committee to determine disciplinary action against Ludlow. The committee recommended NU fire him, but the suit alleges NU ignored the committee’s decision. Ludlow remains employed by the University, where he is teaching two 300-level philosophy classes this quarter, according to CAESAR.

NU released a statement Monday but declined to comment further.

“We don’t comment on pending litigation,” University spokesman Bob Rowley wrote in an email. “But the University has policies and procedures in place to protect our students and to address any such reported concerns.”

Ludlow came to NU in 2008 after previously teaching at the University of Toronto and the University of Michigan, according to a resume posted on the philosophy department website.

A public Facebook post from Ludlow in November indicates he has accepted a senior position at the philosophy department of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Rowley said he had no information regarding Ludlow leaving NU.

In January, the University released a new sexual conduct policy, including a more specific definition of consent and a wider-reaching list of what constitutes sexual assault. Administrators said the new policy would help NU better comply with federal regulations, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, both of which work to protect students from sexual assault.

This story has been updated with comment from Ludlow’s attorney and details from the lawsuit.

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