Ludlow sues Northwestern for gender discrimination, defamation

Sophia Bollag, Assistant Summer Editor

Philosophy Prof. Peter Ludlow is suing Northwestern and top University officials for defamation, gender discrimination and invasion of privacy.

The University acted “with malice and with reckless indifference” toward Ludlow’s rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, according to the suit. Ludlow names University President Morton Schapiro and an NU graduate student as defendants in the suit, which was filed Wednesday.

In addition to his allegations against NU, Ludlow denies reports that he had non-consensual sex with a philosophy graduate student while they were in a relationship.

Ludlow is raising his concerns in the wake of a different Title IX lawsuit filed in February against the University by a rising Medill senior. The Medill student alleges that NU acted with “deliberate indifference and retaliation” after she reported that Ludlow sexually assaulted her in 2012. The student’s report spurred an internal investigation that found Ludlow in violation of NU’s sexual misconduct policy. Ludlow called this investigation “flawed and one-sided” and has denied the student’s allegations.

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

Ludlow’s suit reveals that the University also investigated Ludlow after a philosophy graduate student lodged a complaint in March that Ludlow had non-consensual sex with her. The pair had “a consensual romantic relationship” from about October 2011 to January 2012, according to Ludlow’s suit.

He is alleging that the graduate student, along with philosophy Prof. Jennifer Lackey and director of NU’s Sexual Harassment Prevention Office Joan Slavin, who are also named in the suit, defamed him in statements they made during a third-party investigation into the student’s allegations.

Ludlow said Slavin, Lackey and the student made false claims against him during the investigation. The University hired Patricia C. Bobb, an independent investigator, to look into the graduate student’s claims.

Ludlow’s suit says that Bobb found the claims of non-consensual sex unsubstantiated, but that she did find Ludlow had violated NU’s sexual harassment policy because he had “unequal power“ in his relationship with the graduate student. Ludlow contests this finding from Bobb’s report, according to his lawsuit.

Bobb’s report was then distributed within the University against Ludlow’s wishes, the suit says.

Slavin and Lackey declined to speak about the suit Thursday, deferring to the University for comment.

In addition to complaints related to Bobb’s investigation, Ludlow is alleging that NU, Schapiro and University spokesman Al Cubbage mischaracterized his employment status in March after Ludlow’s Winter Quarter classes were cut short and his Spring Quarter class canceled.

(Updated: Ludlow’s Spring Quarter class canceled)

Ludlow stopped teaching his Winter Quarter classes in early March after students planned a sit-in of one of his philosophy classes. Students were protesting NU’s sexual assault policies and Ludlow’s employment in light of the Medill student’s suit.

(Updated: Planned sit-in turns into protest of Northwestern’s sexual assault policies)

With “protests and disruptions … planned for his remaining classes,” NU asked Ludlow to discontinue his winter classes and cancel his spring classes because of concerns for his students’ safety, but “this request was not punitive in nature,” the lawsuit says.

Ludlow is claiming that Schapiro and Cubbage misrepresented his employment status to local media, including The Daily. Officials incorrectly characterized the cancellation of his spring classes and the discontinuation of his teaching in the winter as a punitive measure, according to the suit.

Cubbage told The Daily in May that Ludlow is not scheduled to teach Fall Quarter.

Ludlow is seeking damages for “emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment and future lost income and benefits,” as well as damage to his reputation.

Cubbage declined to comment on behalf of the University on Thursday.

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