A group of graduate and undergraduate students at Northwestern University, including members of the department of philosophy, are planning a sit-in for tomorrow at the office of university president Morton Schapiro to protest the university’s decision to mediate its lawsuit with Peter Ludlow (previously), rather than continue with it in court. The university is only one of the defendants named in Ludlow’s suit, and apparently at least one of the other co-defendants—a philosophy graduate student—opposes this decision.
As one of the protest planners explained in an email to Daily Nous, “The complaints against… the university [and the other defendants] are wrapped up in one suit—so, the university wants to unilaterally mediate (or also have them mediate as well, but will mediate regardless of whether or not they come to the table). If they come to the table, it will send the unfortunate message that they believe they ought to mediate. And if they do not, the university will attempt to settle before they have had a chance to have the complaints against them dismissed or their version of events heard in court, and without the ability to have any say in the process or ability to attempt to negotiate some protections for themselves.”
Further information about the sit-in is available at the event’s Facebook page.
The following is from that page:
Northwestern aims to unilaterally mediate in its lawsuit with Ludlow, even though it is not the only defendant, irrespective of the desires of their co-defendants. We believe that any such mediation would not only adversely affect the student and professor who are also named in the suit, but also serve as a dangerous precedent for universities named in Title IX lawsuits nationally.
It has come to our attention that Northwestern is looking to quickly mediate in their lawsuit with Peter Ludlow–a lawsuit in which they are not the only defendant (a graduate student who filed a Title IX complaint against him, and a professor who assisted her, are also named as well, and accused of defamation). NU is planning to mediate, regardless of the desires of their co-defendants.
While we admire Northwestern’s intention to mitigate the stressful nature of the legal situation for all involved, Northwestern should stand by their actions rather than agree to write a check now to avoid potential litigation costs later. Sexual violence is an epidemic on college campuses that persists, in part, because perpetrators are shielded by universities’ interests in avoiding public relations scandals and protecting their bottom line, and by the damage caused to victims’ credibility when universities do mistreat perpetrators.If Ludlow has engaged in a pattern of predatory behavior, he should not be rewarded just for the sake of avoiding the costs of litigation, nor should he be able to walk away with plausible deniability. If he has not, the university should be responsible for their mistreatment of him; not only for his sake, but for the sake of victims everywhere who have a vested interest in universities properly handling Title IX complaints. Negotiating in this way, before both sides can be heard, would also simultaneously send a chilling message to victims on campuses everywhere, that if they come forward, they will need to consider the legal and financial costs given this new precedent, and deny an alleged victim, and the faculty member who assisted in bringing her complaint forward, any chance of vindicating their credibility that they have.
We have contacted the graduate student who is named in the lawsuit to confirm that she is comfortable with our action. We will sit-in at 633 Clark Street tomorrow [Monday] from 12-5pm. We welcome others to join us.
UPDATE: Northwestern has agreed to halt the mediation efforts with Peter Ludlow. From the story at Huffington Post:
A group of students staged a sit-in at the university president’s office on Monday, insisting Northwestern should take a moral stance against cutting a check to Ludlow after finding he had behaved inappropriately.
“At the end of the day, these cases are not about how to rearrange figures in the university budget,” said Kathryn Pogin, a philosophy graduate student who led the protest. “They are human beings and have a right to be treated as such.”
The accusers would no longer have been liable for defaming Ludlow had the university entered into mediation. But protesters were concerned that it would have denied the accusers the chance to have their names cleared in court.
Alan Cubbage, Northwestern’s vice president for university relations, said mediation was only one route the school was considering. Administrators scrapped the plan after receiving an email on Saturday from one of Ludlow’s accusers asking them to do so.
UPDATE 2: The graduate student being sued by Peter Ludlow has issued the following statement:
There has been so much in the news lately about the many and horrifying failings of university administrations’ dealing with Title IX issues. We are all familiar with these catastrophic miscarriages of justice, and frankly, we are all worn weary with worry and heartache. Today however, the Northwestern community has taken a real step in the direction of modeling what it’s like for a university to be an ally in the fight against sexual harassment and sexual assault. Today, in response to criticism from the student population, who were in turn vocalizing my objections as the graduate student named in Peter Ludlow’s lawsuit, Northwestern’s administration has agreed to halt all mediation proceedings with Ludlow’s attorneys. To be clear: I voiced my concerns, the broader Northwestern community mobilized on my behalf (in only 24 hours), and the administration heard our cry, in turn responding appropriately by suspending all mediation proceedings — this, while ordering hot chocolate for the student protestors, and helping them to put up their protest signs outside the president’s office. The administration and I are now engaged in further discussions about my wishes and needs throughout this process.
Putting the victim first should not be such an uncommonly outstanding occasion. Yet in this moment, I feel compelled to sing loudly the praises of Northwestern’s administration. Let this be a message to all universities: Stand by your students, stand by your victims. Protect their voices. Together, let’s make Northwestern a model.
UPDATE 3: The Daily Northwestern’s article is here.