Court dismisses Medill senior’s Title IX suit against Northwestern

Ally Mutnick, Managing Editor

Title IX lawsuits

A federal judge dismissed Thursday a Medill senior’s Title IX lawsuit against Northwestern, ruling the University is not liable because it “took timely, reasonable, and successful measures” in the aftermath of her alleged sexual assault by philosophy Prof. Peter Ludlow.

Citing a “laundry list of actions” the University took against Ludlow, the court found NU is not culpable under the federal gender equity law Title IX.

The student filed her suit in February, saying the University treated her claims of sexual assault with “deliberate indifference and retaliation.” She said Ludlow sexually assaulted her in February 2012 after the two attended an art show together in downtown Chicago.

In her suit, the student said NU created a “hostile environment” by allowing Ludlow to remain on campus.

Her suit asked the University for reparations for emotional distress and appropriate remedial actions, as well as payment of past and future education and medical bills.

The ruling, by Judge Harry D. Leinenweber, cited a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision specifying that Title IX does not allow a victim of sexual harassment to request specific remedial demands. Leinenweber wrote the student’s argument “flies in the face” of the Supreme Court precedent.

The student’s attorney Kevin O’Connor said, despite the ruling, he was “not done yet.”

“We are disappointed but undeterred,” O’Connor wrote in a message to The Daily.

NU denied wrongdoing in the Title IX suit in February, citing corrective actions it took against Ludlow after an internal investigation found he had violated the University’s sexual harassment policy. Ludlow lost an appointment to an endowed professorship and was denied a pay raise for the 2012-13 academic year, among other sanctions.

The University prohibited Ludlow from having contact with the student and Ludlow complied, according to Thursday’s ruling. Besides the “occasional glimpse of him on campus,” the student does not claim to have had any other contact, the judge wrote.

The ruling acknowledged the student’s claims that Ludlow’s presence gave her “considerable grief” but found it was not actionable under Title IX.

The judge also rejected the student’s claim that NU retaliated against her suit by rejecting her for a fellowship and denying her refund for a study abroad program deposit. In her original suit, the student admits an outside company rather than the University denied the refund, the judge noted in the ruling. The judge also said the student did not allege her fellowship rejection was “causally related to her threats to bring suit.”

University spokesman Al Cubbage released a statement Thursday, saying NU was “pleased” with the dismissal.

“Northwestern is strongly committed to responding appropriately to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault,” he said, “as the court ruled today, the University did so in this case.”

Ludlow did not finish teaching his Winter 2014 class, following student protests that took place in March. He has not taught any classes since then. Cubbage told The Daily last week Ludlow will not teach next quarter.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @allymutnick

Previous stories on this topic:

    Northwestern responds to student’s lawsuit, denies Title IX violations
    Student: Northwestern’s failures spurred Title IX lawsuit
    Student sues Northwestern, claiming University ignored sexual assault findings