A Northwestern University professor who has been accused by a female student of inappropriate sexual conduct has sued the university and its leadership for gender discrimination, defamation and invasion of privacy.
In a lawsuit filed June 18 in Chicago's federal court, Peter Ludlow, a philosophy professor at Northwestern, asserts the university mangled its investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations and the school’s president and vice-president subsequently fed the media false information about him.
Ludlow claims the university discriminated against him because he is a man and severely damaged his reputation in recent months after one student brought the formerly internal disciplinary matter into the courts and public eye.
The case stems from a lawsuit a female undergraduate student brought in February in the Cook County Circuit Court against Ludlow. She claims Ludlow got her drunk following an art event off campus in 2012, and then brought her back to his apartment.
She also sued Northwestern in federal court that same month, claiming that by allowing Ludlow to keep his job and remain on campus, it did not do enough. She further accused the university of retaliating against her for bringing the action, after she failed to secure a fellowship and had trouble registering for a key class.
In her amended complaint filed earlier this month, the student contends Ludlow made unwanted sexual advances, woke up in his bed the next morning with his arms around her, panicked and blacked out. She alleges that when he dropped her off in Evanston the next day, he told he looked forward to seeing her again and kissed her again.
The student in 2012 told a professor about the incident involving Ludlow, which made its way to the university's director of Sexual Harassment Prevention. Following an investigation, the student's suit alleges it was determined Ludlow had engaged in unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances toward her.
Ludlow, however, asserts in his recently filed lawsuit the investigation was “flawed and one-sided.”
In court filings of its own, the university noted that it acted against Ludlow following the investigation, moving to, among other disciplinary actions, deny him a pay raise, rescind his appointment to an endowed professor position, and tell him not to have any contact with or retaliate against the student.
Northwestern, in a June 19 motion filed in the student's suit, asked the federal court to dismiss the complaint. A hearing on that motion has been set for July 1.
After the student filed the separate actions against Ludlow and the university, a number of student protests erupted on campus, demanding further disciplinary actions, including termination, against Ludlow.
That, in turn, prompted the university, according to Ludlow’s complaint, to ask him to agree not to teach his spring classes, as Northwestern “could not ensure student safety with ongoing protests.”
According to his suit, Ludlow agreed, but on the condition university officials tell the media only that “Professor Ludlow is not teaching spring quarter.”
However, in following days, Ludlow contends university officials, including President Morton Schapiro and Vice President Alan Cubbage, told reporters that “all the controversy and allegations out there” had prompted the university to remove Ludlow from his classes; something he asserts falsely implied the decision was “punitive in nature.”
Following those events, Ludlow's suit states, another professor began calling for his termination, and a female graduate student with whom he said he had had a consensual sexual relationship was prompted to file a complaint with the university alleging he had engaged in inappropriate conduct with her.
The university brought in an independent investigator to handle that complaint, and that report later concluded, while Ludlow’s conduct with the graduate student was not “unwelcome,” it still constituted sexual harassment under university policy because Ludlow had “unequal power in the relationship.”
Ludlow notes in his suit the university, at the time of his relationship with the graduate student, had no policy in place forbidding professors from dating students they are not teaching or academically evaluating, which was the case with that student.
He also alleges the university’s investigations into both sexual misconduct complaints failed to consider key pieces of evidence he offered in his defense.
Ludlow’s suit names the following as defendants: Schapiro, Cubbage, the female graduate student, the professor who allegedly instigated the second misconduct investigation and Northwestern’s Director of Sexual Harassment Prevention Joan Slawin.
He has demanded damages, but his suit does not specify an amount. Ludlow is being represented in his suit by attorneys Kristin M. Case, Kate Sedey and Kendra L. Kutko of the Case Law Firm LLC in Chicago.
Court records show Northwestern has yet to enter an appearance in the case and that no deadlines or hearings dates have been set. Ludlow's suit has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Sara L. Ellis.
The undergraduate student is being represented in her suit against the university by Kevin O’Connor of O’Connor O’Connor P.C. in Elmhurst. Northwestern is being represented by attorneys Scott L. Warner, Ellen M. Babbitt and Ellen F. Wetmore of Franczek Radelet P.C. in Chicago.
U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber is presiding over that suit.
In the student's Cook County suit, which Cook County Circuit Judge James O'Hara is presiding over, she and Ludlow are being represented by the same firms representing them in their federal cases.