Professors petition Board of Trustees in response to Title IX lawsuit

Ciara McCarthy, City Editor

Northwestern professors posted a petition Sunday evening asking the University’s Board of Trustees to fully implement policies that require accountability and transparency when handling sexual assault and misconduct.

Sociology Prof. Laura Beth Nielsen, the director of legal studies, said she began hearing from concerned faculty members after writing a column in The Daily calling for greater accountability from the University administration. About 20 professors drafted the petition, Nielsen said.

(Guest Column: Protecting students and ensuring justice on campus)

The petition was written in response to the lawsuit that a Medill junior filed against NU earlier this month and the University’s reply, which denied all allegations of noncompliance with Title IX of the Education Acts of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination by educational institutions receiving federal funding.

(Northwestern responds to student’s lawsuit, denies Title IX violations)

The student filed the lawsuit on Feb. 10, claiming NU had failed to act appropriately after she reported being sexually assaulted by philosophy Prof. Peter Ludlow in 2012.

The petition requested full compliance with the requirements of Title IX and the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. It was posted on Sunday evening, and more than 100 supporters had signed it as of 11 p.m.

“We know these are really difficult laws to enforce but we’ve got to figure out a way together to do better,” Nielsen said.

In addition to requesting greater compliance with existing laws, the post said the University had entered a “Resolution Agreement” with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights in 2012, and asked for the release of the entire agreement. In particular, the authors emphasized the need for greater transparency in dealing with allegations of sexual assault.

“When internal findings document misconduct, especially misconduct consistent with violation of state or federal laws, Northwestern should prioritize campus safety and stand firmly on the side of those who have the least power and privilege, understanding that this may risk lawsuits from aggrieved parties,” the petition reads.

After the student filed a complaint with the Sexual Harassment Prevention Office, director Joan Slavin conducted an internal investigation of the student’s allegations. In an email dated April 11, 2012, Slavin found Ludlow had engaged in “unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances” toward the student. The petition asks the Board to conduct an audit of all administrators who were aware of Slavin’s findings and to publicly release the information yielded by the audit.

The petition has gathered signatures from faculty, undergraduate students, alumni and others.

“In my 15 years here, two of my female undergraduate students have been victimized by male faculty,” wrote history Prof. Ji-Yeon Yuh, director of Asian American studies, in a comment on the petition. Yuh confirmed the comment in an email to The Daily on Sunday evening.

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