Graduate student considers filing Title IX suit against Northwestern

Rebecca Savransky, Campus Editor

A Northwestern graduate student will likely sue the University within the next month alleging that his Title IX rights were violated, the student’s lawyer said in court on Thursday.

News about the potential suit surfaced during a status hearing for a different Title IX lawsuit against NU, which was filed in February by a Medill junior. Attorneys for the junior and NU met in court for the first time Thursday.

Kevin O’Connor, the students’ attorney, asked to amend the original lawsuit to include the graduate student’s complaint that his rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in higher education, were violated in the aftermath of being sexually harassed by an NU professor.

Because the two cases involve different students and professors, the judge requested the suits be filed separately.

O’Connor said he hopes to file the second complaint as soon as possible so as not to delay the process if it is necessary. Although he plans to go through the same procedure as with the previous Title IX lawsuit, which includes engaging in negotiations with the University prior to moving forward with the lawsuits, he said there is a high likelihood the complaint will be filed.

O’Connor said he plans to amend the initial complaint to include updated information from NU which demonstrated inaccuracies in the initial lawsuit.

Currently, the suit claims that NU acted with “deliberate indifference and retaliation” while handling the undergraduate’s complaint that she was sexually assaulted by philosophy Prof. Peter Ludlow. The University moved to dismiss the suit and claimed that NU appropriately punished Ludlow after an internal investigation found him in violation of the school’s sexual misconduct policy.

“We are always willing to talk to students but Northwestern’s position is laid out accurately and in detail in its answer in this case,” Ellen Babbitt, NU’s attorney, said Thursday. “We’re looking forward to the amended complaint to see if there are any changes. We’re willing to talk, but we do feel very strongly that our position’s correct, but it’s a difficult situation so we always keep the lines of communication open.”

The updated claim must be submitted by June 5 and the University must respond by June 19. A second status hearing is scheduled for July 23.

In addition to filing the updated complaint, O’Connor said he plans to also make a more definite settlement offer to NU if the University continues to be “amenable to at least entertaining a settlement offer.”

“I’ll go forward and amend the complaint as we discussed with Northwestern previously, and the other plaintiff, provided that it does go to court, will file a separate claim.”

Editor’s Note: Due to incorrect information from the student’s attorney, a previous version of this story indicated the graduate student would be alleging sexual assault. He will allege sexual harassment. The story has been updated.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @beccasavransky