Northwestern responds to amended Title IX complaint, denies violations

Ciara McCarthy, Editor in Chief

Northwestern denied the allegations of discrimination and retaliation in a rising Medill senior’s Title IX lawsuit when it responded to her amended complaint last week.

(Title IX suit against Northwestern moves forward with amended complaint)

The suit, which was originally filed in February and amended June 5, alleges that the University acted with “deliberate indifference and retaliation” after the student reported being sexually assaulted by a professor in 2012.

(Student: Northwestern’s failures spurred Title IX lawsuit)

In its response, the University reiterated its denial of the student’s legal claims but brought new details to light about NU’s handling of the report.

Philosophy Prof. Peter Ludlow sexually assaulted the student in February 2012, according to her complaint. The student says she reported the assault to NU’s Sexual Harassment Prevention Office shortly after it occurred, prompting the office to launch an internal investigation into her claims. The office’s director Joan Slavin concluded that Ludlow violated NU’s sexual harassment policy and engaged in “unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances,” toward the student, including kissing her.

Ludlow has denied all claims of inappropriate conduct since the lawsuit has been filed and is suing the University and top officials for defamation and discrimination.

(Ludlow sues Northwestern for gender discrimination, defamation)

Slavin detailed the findings of her investigation in a 21-page memorandum to Weinberg Dean Sarah Mangelsdorf in April 2012, according to last week’s filing. Slavin’s investigation, which Ludlow called “flawed and one-sided,” included interviews with Ludlow, the student, and “several other witnesses,” NU said.

Mangelsdorf wrote to Ludlow in May 2012 to inform him of the corrective actions that NU would impose, which included prohibiting him from receiving a raise for the 2012-2013 academic year, rescinding his appointment as the John Evans Professor in Moral and Intellectual Philosophy and requiring him to attend a harassment-prevention training program.

Ludlow appealed the decision to remove his endowed professorship, so the University convened a six-member committee to review the sanction. Ludlow accepted “most of the sanctions and (acknowledged) his behavior,” the committee wrote in a July 2012 report, which was included in NU’s response. The group decided the sanctions imposed on Ludlow were appropriate and maintained the rescinding of the chair, according to NU’s response.

“Apart from whether there was sexual harassment as defined by administrative and legal authorities, Ludlow’s acknowledged behavior strikes us as highly inappropriate, deeply unprofessional, and embarrassing to the University and to his colleagues,” the committee wrote. “It had significant and critical impact on the student in question.”

In its response, the University also insists that it disclosed information about the sanctions imposed on Ludlow to the student in August 2013. The student has said that she was left in the dark with regards to Ludlow’s sanctions.

NU also said that it investigated the student’s claims of retaliatory action by Ludlow and found them unsubstantiated.

Twitter: @mccarthy_ciara