Northwestern to halt mediation plans in Ludlow suit
November 24, 2014
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Northwestern will call off mediation efforts in the lawsuit that philosophy Prof. Peter Ludlow filed against NU, top administrators, a faculty member and a graduate student, the University announced Monday.
The decision was relayed to students publicly before a sit-in they planned to hold in the University’s administrative offices to protest NU’s intent to negotiate.
In the lawsuit Ludlow filed in June, he claims his rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 were treated “with malice and with reckless indifference” when he was investigated by the University for the alleged sexual assault of a Medill student in 2012. The suit also revealed Ludlow had been investigated by NU for a different complaint of non-consensual sex that a philosophy graduate student lodged against him in March. The two had been in “a consensual romantic relationship” from October 2011 to January 2012, according to the defamation lawsuit.
In his suit, he claimed the investigation of the alleged assault of the now Medill senior was “flawed and one-sided.” He also said philosophy Prof. Jennifer Lackey; Joan Slavin, director of sexual harassment prevention at NU; and the graduate student defamed him during the third-party investigation of the graduate student’s allegations.
Students planned a protest for Monday, after hearing of the mediation plans, to demand the University not negotiate with Ludlow. The protest, originally planned to last from 12 to 5 p.m., turned into a meeting with University administrators when Dean of Students Todd Adams invited the students to speak with NU spokesman Al Cubbage about the suit.
Cubbage, who is one of the defendants in the defamation lawsuit, said NU had initially planned non-binding mediation, which would involve negotiating with all parties involved to reach a solution out of court and avoid trial. Over the weekend, the University received a message from the graduate student named in the lawsuit saying she did not wish to proceed with mediation, Cubbage said.
NU responded to the student Monday morning with its intention to suspend the mediation if she confirms she does not want to proceed, Cubbage said.
“We’ve honored that request,” he told seven undergraduate and graduate students gathered in the lobby of Rebecca Crown Center on Monday afternoon.
He added that the defendants may now need to prepare for trial.
Students responded with mixed reactions, telling administrators that it appeared NU was responding to the threat of protest rather than the student’s request. They also said NU should not have considered pursuing mediation to begin with.
Kathryn Pogin, a first-year philosophy graduate student who helped organize the sit-in, said she found it “troubling” that Ludlow could be rewarded a settlement for his actions, which she said would be a likely outcome of the mediation process.
“I don’t think it’s morally appropriate to say, ‘Look, let’s come to some mutually agreeable, contractual, financial arrangement, such that we are now going to reward you for having engaged in precisely that behavior,” Pogin said, “and not just engaging in that behavior but then going around and suing everybody over it.’”
Pogin added that the University is in “new legal territory” in how to handle defamation claims from those accused of sexual assault and could set examples for other universities.
Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs, also attended the meeting.
Adams said he notified protest organizer Jazz Stephens, a Weinberg senior, about NU’s decision prior to the planned sit-in and arranged the meeting with administrators to let the students voice their concerns.
In a statement issued after the meeting, Cubbage said the graduate student had previously agreed to mediation, and the University was considering the tactic “to avoid having the student and other defendants go through the lengthy and often stressful process of pre-trial depositions and a trial itself.”
The graduate student declined to comment through an attorney.
However, Pogin, who said she has been in contact with the student, told The Daily that NU decided to enter mediation against the student’s previously expressed wishes. Pogin said the meeting Monday was nevertheless “productive.”
“It is always good when University administrators are willing to listen to students,” she said.
Some of the students at the protest also met with University President Morton Schapiro in private later in the afternoon.
Ludlow’s attorney, Kristin Case, did not respond to a request for comment.
This post was updated at 10:30 p.m. on Monday.
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