New Motion in Ludlow Case; Faculty Respond (with updates from Kvanvig, Garthoff, and Lockwood)

A new motion was filed on January 6th by lawyers for the undergraduate student allegedly assaulted by Northwestern University professor of philosophy Peter Ludlow (previously). The student’s lawsuit against Northwestern for mishandling her complaints was dismissed this past November. This motion claims to establish that there is newly discovered evidence that should void the earlier dismissal. The new evidence comes in the form of an affidavit from Heidi Lockwood (Southern Connecticut State), who, owing to her articles and writings about sexual misconduct in the philosophy profession, has had numerous conversations with various philosophers who have contacted her about Ludlow’s “long history of troubling behavior and sexual misconduct.”

Lockwood reports on conversations that indicate that faculty at Northwestern had reason to be concerned about Ludlow in regard to sexual misconduct prior to his being hired; in particular, that they were aware that the girlfriend he brought with him on his trip to interview at Northwestern was a former undergraduate of his from Michigan (though it is not said whether the relationship began while the woman was still a student). Additionally, she reports learning that faculty were inhibited from making public expressions of complaint and support for “fear of being sued by Ludlow, or fear of irritating the administration by publicly showing support for the complainants.”

(The above information is my summary of some of the key points in the motion, which includes Lockwood’s affidavit. Because the affidavit contains a number of other new, specific allegations against Ludlow, based on reported conversations, I am not quite comfortable posting it at this time.)

In response to this motion, three members of the Northwestern Department of Philosophy faculty—Sandy Goldberg, Jennifer Lackey, and Baron Reed—have issued the following statement:

We—Sandy Goldberg, Jennifer Lackey, and Baron Reed (the members of the Northwestern Philosophy Department’s Search Committee that recommended hiring Peter Ludlow in 2008)—would like to clarify both the circumstances under which Peter Ludlow was hired at Northwestern and our response to concerns raised about his conduct. We do so because a motion was recently filed in federal court (on 01/06/15) that contains various falsehoods and thereby egregiously misrepresents the actions and states of knowledge, not only of each of us individually, but also of the Search Committee, the Philosophy Department, and the University.

We categorically deny that we had knowledge prior to the hiring of Peter Ludlow at Northwestern of any allegations that he had sexual relations of any sort with his students. No concern was ever expressed to any of us by anyone that Ludlow engaged in sexual misconduct at his previous institutions (or in other conduct that would pose a threat to our students), nor did we have any reason to think that Ludlow’s past should be investigated further. Since Ludlow joined Northwestern’s Philosophy Department, any concern that has been raised to any one of us about Ludlow’s conduct has been thoroughly and promptly addressed, with unwavering support for those who have come forward with allegations or concerns.

We are, and have been, steadfastly committed to ensuring that our department is a safe, supportive, and welcoming environment for all of its members. 

UPDATE 1a (1/8/15):  Jonathan Kvanvig (Baylor), one of the parties whose conversations with Lockwood is mentioned in her affidavit, has written to me to say that his name was used in it without his permission and that the account of what he said is inaccurate.

UPDATE 1b (1/9/15): Kvanvig, who had hoped that the affidavit would be edited to exclude references to him, has now learned that this will not happen, and has provided the following elaboration on his prior statement:

Those of you following the Daily Nous announcement about new filings in the Northwestern case, I have a statement to make, prompted by the fact that the affidavit will not be edited to exclude any reference to me:

I am on the side of doing whatever I can to stop the insanity in our profession regarding sexual misconduct. But I will not be a pawn to be used by those on the same side, and I have been.

I was cited extensively in the most recent affidavit from Heidi Howkins Lockwood and the lawyers involved, Kevin F. O’Connor and Ryan Estes of O’Connor | O’Connor, P.C.

Citations to me were included without my permission and without prior efforts to allow me to correct attributions. Both elements, by themselves, are egregious.

In addition, the citations are inaccurate in the following way. Heidi and I have had several conversations about the current state of the discipline regarding sexual misconduct. In every case, I have expressed support and willingness to do whatever I can to make things change. But also in every case, the conversations were about the rumor mill in philosophy regarding the cases in question, and in every case the conversations were about this rumor mill. So when I am cited as saying that “X happened,” the context was always, and would have been understood to always involve, the qualifier about the rumor mill. I have no knowledge of what has happened in the cases that have become public, nor of the cases that are still secret, with the exception of those at institutions where I have taught (which are, of course, not part of the issue here).

So, to attribute claims to me that certain things have happened is grossly irresponsible, since all that could be responsibly attributed is the claim that I, too, had heard rumors to such an effect.

I hope it goes without saying, but will say it anyway: the cause of improving the climate in our profession is seriously damaged by this kind of behavior.

UPDATE 2 (1/8/15): Heidi Lockwood passes on the following statement:

Releasing the affidavit was not an easy decision. I obviously have nothing to gain, and much to lose. The reason I decided to come forward—after many months of watching and deliberating—is because there are philosophers who have knowledge and want to talk, but are afraid to, either because they are afraid of retaliation in the form of a suit from Ludlow, or because they’re afraid of being censured by the philosophical community at large. If I have to act as a shield, to absorb the hit, then so be it. It’s wrong for us as a discipline to engage in bystander behavior, or worse. 

My priority will always be the victims. But I am a huge fan of Jennifer Lackey and Baron Reed—they’ve made a heroic effort to support the students, and to stand up when no one else had the courage to do so. And I’m reasonably certain that, when the truth is out, this will be apparent. The truth needs to come out, though. And, in light of the multiple lawsuits surrounding this case, the only way this can happen is via legal channels.

UPDATE 3 (1/9/15): The Daily Northwestern has an article about this latest development in the lawsuit.

UPDATE 4 (1/12/15): In the original post I said that Lockwood’s affidavit contained “a number of other new, specific allegations against Ludlow, based on reported conversations.” Concern about the evidentiary status of those conversations was a reason I did not publish the affidavit here at Daily Nous. Another reason, which I did not even mention in the original post, was that other philosophers were mentioned in the affidavit, either as sources of information or, in one case, as a seeming example of objectionable behavior. I did not want to fan the flames of curiosity, lest possibly innocent people get burned. But now that the affidavit has been circulating online, those mentioned are starting to respond. Last week we heard from Jonathan Kvanvig (see updated 1a and 1b, above). I have now received a message from Jon Garthoff (Tennessee), who has given me permission publish the part of the affidavit in which he comes up:

Philosopher X [someone at Northwestern whose identity is not revealed in the affidavit]… explained that Ludlow was not the only known problem in the Philosophy Department in 2010. At the time, Assistant Professor Jon Garthoff was engaged to a graduate student in the department, whom he had met in his capacity as a member of the faculty. When another visiting graduate student from Edinburgh arrived in 2010, Garthoff suddenly broke off the engagement with the first student and became involved with the Edinburgh student. Although the relationships were consensual, Philosopher X felt that they had a distinct adverse effect on the climate of the department for women.

In response to this, Garthoff has asked me to post the following statement:

I am writing to express my deep resentment regarding Professor Heidi Lockwood’s irresponsible and mistaken characterizations of me and my relationships in the affidavit she submitted in connection with [the undergraduate’s] lawsuit against Northwestern University. Ending the more than five-year relationship with my ex-fiancee was the most painful and difficult experience of my life, and while I do not presume to speak for my ex-fiancee I daresay I expect it was for her as well. My now more than four-year relationship with my wife (referred to in the affidavit as a “visiting graduate student from Edinburgh”) has been, is, and will continue to be the most important and valuable element of both my life and hers. It is profoundly offensive of Professor Lockwood to submit a legal affidavit which suggests through innuendo, factual mistakes, and grossly misleading context that either or both of these deep, serious, committed, lengthy, exclusive relationships was the product, constituent, aspect, or cause of an unprofessional (much less exploitative or harassing) atmosphere.

Professor Lockwood has indicated to me that she is “in no way asserting the truth of anything that was said” to her about me, including what she reported in the affidavit. She has indicated further that it “would be foolish and irresponsible to do so without investigating”, something she has “neither authority nor training” to do. The first of these three statements strains credibility, but even if it is true, Professor Lockwood thereby admits to the gross irresponsibility of going out of her way to submit, over her signature and for potential use in a legal proceeding, claims she may not believe to be true.

There is exactly one paragraph in the affidavit which pertains to me. It consists in four sentences, which read as follows:

Sentence 1: “Philosopher X also explained that Ludlow was not the only known problem in the Philosophy Department in 2010.”

That this vague slander refers to me is made clear by the subsequent sentence. The characterization of me as a “known problem” in any department at any time is patently false and is given no substantiation in Professor Lockwood’s affidavit. The placement of this characterization after the apparently factive term “explained that” is specially irresponsible. It is simply outrageous that this characterization immediately follows sentences in which it is alleged that faculty exploited power asymmetries to proposition students and that Professor Peter Ludlow verbally sexually harassed students, and immediately precedes paragraphs in which it is alleged that Ludlow made unwelcome sexual advances on students and engaged in sexual misconduct.

Sentence 2: “At the time, Assistant Professor of Jon Garthoff [sic] was engaged to a graduate student in the department, whom he had met in his capacity as a member of the faculty.”

My ex-fiancee was not a graduate student at Northwestern in 2010 when we split up (nor in 2009 when we became engaged), rather at that time she was a former graduate student who received her Ph.D. and began work as a tenure-track assistant professor years earlier. Strictly speaking the claim that I met my ex-fiancee in my capacity as a member of the faculty is also false.

Sentence 3: “When another visiting graduate student from Edinburgh arrived in 2010, Garthoff suddenly broke off the engagement with the first student and became involved with the Edinburgh student.”

In addition to the factual error about my being engaged to a Northwestern graduate student in 2010, this statement contains additional factual errors about the timing of the termination of that engagement and the timing of my involvement with my now wife. The engagement was not broken off “suddenly” when my now wife was a visiting student at Northwestern, rather my wife and I did not even meet until the final week of her affiliation with Northwestern in April 2010 (excepting a brief conversation in February during a public event where I spoke on campus), and the engagement was not ended until July.

Indeed the affidavit fails to mention altogether the obviously relevant context that the “Edinburgh student” and I have been happily married for years. Professor Lockwood has told me she was unaware of this fact. One reason she was unaware is that she failed to contact me concerning this affidavit, which to my mind indicates a crass indifference to the truth. Indeed Professor Lockwood never informed me I would be mentioned in any affidavit.

Sentence 4: “Although the relationships were consensual, Philosopher X felt that they had a distinct adverse effect on the climate of the department for women.”

The first clause of this statement is bizarre in its obviousness in light of the relationships’ length and seriousness. The second clause is a claim about the feelings of Philosopher X, an anonymous philosophy graduate student at Northwestern University, and so is difficult to dispute. But it is of course relevant to what Professor Lockwood or anyone else should make of these feelings that the affidavit’s claims about the two relationships, which are based on the testimony of Philosopher X, are almost entirely erroneous.

Moreover the affidavit indicates that Professor Lockwood first heard of the feelings of Philosopher X on January 4th of this year and signed the affidavit the following day, having made no attempt to vet the accuracy of the claims and characterizations she reported. I find it difficult to reconcile this timetable and lack of diligence with any mature commitment to truth or fairness. I have encouraged Professor Lockwood to speak to as many of my present and past colleagues and students as possible, so that she may develop an informed opinion about my contributions to the life and atmosphere of the departments at which I have worked.

Professor Lockwood has indicated to me her “hope this whole traumatic saga teaches those who are inclined to spread rumors a couple of lessons”. This statement is galling and astounding, since Professor Lockwood’s affidavit spreads false and slanderous rumors about me.

But even more than her careless slanders I am appalled and saddened by Professor Lockwood’s willingness to characterize the two most important relationships in my life in such a lazily disrespectful and ill-informed way. That she did so without attempting the most basic efforts to learn whether the characterizations were remotely accurate is indefensible and insulting to all three people involved in those relationships.

I have requested that Professor Lockwood remove the four sentences about me from the affidavit and apologize for having included them. Thus far she has refused to do both. More generally she has refused to take any responsibility whatsoever for her failure in this matter to meet the standards of basic human decency. Instead she has attempted repeatedly to deflect all responsibility onto others.

Professor Lockwood has portrayed her affidavit to me as part of an “earnest attempt to tell the whole truth” and she has portrayed herself publicly (including on Daily Nous) as possessing a deep commitment to the truth. In view of the facts above I find these portrayals ludicrous and pathetic.

UPDATE 5 (1/12/15): Heidi Lockwood has provided the following statement:

An affidavit is like an investigation or deposition in the sense that when you speak with the attorneys, you answer questions, truthfully, to the best of your ability. The attorneys then compose the affidavit based on your answers. The question that my affidavit answers is whether anyone said anything to me about climate problems in the department — and, if so, what. What I said was a truthful answer to that question. I did not attempt to investigate the reports of those who gave me information because I have neither the authority nor training to investigate. And I never intended the affidavit to become widely available. This was not an unreasonable expectation, given that other affidavits and materials submitted in connection with this case — some of which would be equally controversial — have not been made public.

An affidavit is also not something that can be edited or changed once it has been filed.

Regrettably, I can’t take a stand either way on whether I think the statements were true or false. If I say that they’re false, I risk being held liable for defaming the named informants by implying that they did not tell me the truth. If I say that they’re true, I risk being held liable for defaming the accused by making a statement without the protection of the privilege of court documents.

I don’t feel that I’m responsible for the fact that the affidavit was made public in the way that it was. And to explain why I agreed to speak with the undergraduate student’s attorneys at this point would be to cause further unnecessary harm. That said, I recognize that publication of the affidavit caused harm to those who were named. I have offered my private apologies, and now do so publicly here.

UPDATE 6 (1/14/15): Jon Garthoff has asked me to post this follow-up:

Professor Lockwood appears to believe that submitting claims and characterizations in a legal affidavit does not thereby make those claims and characterizations publicly available. On this point too she is mistaken, and obviously so.

Professor Lockwood’s indicated fear of legal liability for defamation does not function well as an excuse in conversation with someone whom she has defamed. It is also unclear how a fear of defaming the “named informants” could excuse a failure to disown a paragraph whose only source is anonymous. What I ask is that she issue a public statement which makes clear both (i) that she disowns the claims and characterizations of the paragraph pertaining to me and my relationships and (ii) that those claims and characterizations should never have been included in her affidavit.

Professor Lockwood writes above: “I have offered my private apologies, and now do so publicly here.” The only statement resembling an apology in Professor Lockwood’s personal communication with me is as follows: “I apologize for the harm that was caused by the decision of the PMMB bloggers (and now perhaps others) to publicize the affidavit.” The readers of Daily Nous can decide whether that constitutes a private apology to me by Professor Lockwood for what she has done, and Professor Lockwood should now decide whether integrity demands that she make a fuller public apology.

There are 32 comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please enter an e-mail address