Ludlow Sues Undergraduate (updated)
Peter Ludlow (Northwestern) is suing the undergraduate who accused him of sexually assaulting her. The lawsuit “alleges that the student knowingly made false statements to news media and Northwestern professors after he rebuffed her sexual advances.” Ludlow had previously launched a defamation lawsuit against Northwestern University officials, fellow philosophy professor Jennifer Lackey, and a graduate student in the philosophy department. The Chicago Tribune has the story.
UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune article has been put behind a paywall. You can read about the lawsuit in The Daily Northwestern.
35 years of criminal defense work has taught me that with each additional victim who comes forward with an accusation of sexual assault, the accused’s chances of ever convincing reasonable people that there is a substantial doubt about the truth of the allegations decreases exponentially. As an aside, in my experience jurors tend to dislike authority figures who sue their alleged victims.Report
Suppose this suit goes to trial. Suppose the evidence ends up flatly demonstrating that the student made false claims. Would the well-meaning people here still be prepared to say that Ludlow shouldn’t have sued? NB: Ludlow’s conduct seems to me almost certainly objectionable; but I still don’t see why he shouldn’t try to defend himself within the law if he is accused of things that are worse than what he has actually done.Report
I want to register my agreement with K. *If* the student did lie – and I don’t think any one of us is in any position to know – then Ludlow has every right to sue.Report
My heart goes out to the student.Report
Even supposing the antecedent of the hypothetical is accurate (which feels like an inappropriate game to be playing to me right now) if you accused me of plagiarizing a whole paper, but in fact I had plagiarized all but one paragraph, should I sue because you didn’t tell the truth? And if not, on what principled basis do you draw the distinction between suing on the basis of a an accusation of greater wrong doing than occurred, and an accusation of greater wrong doing that occurred that is justifiably grounds for taking legal action? I am sure you can think up all kinds of other similar thought experiments which illustrate the same difficulty for K’s general principle.Report
Like APhilosopher, my heart goes out to the student. I hope that she has a strong support network to help her through this difficult time.Report
APhilosopher’s analogy fails. First, the difference between the undergraduate’s account and Ludlow’s account is much greater than “plagiarizing a whole paper” vs “plagiarizing all but one paragraph”. Second, the difference is not merely a matter of degree but it is a difference in kind: on the undergraduate’s account, Ludlow engaged in criminal behavior; while on Ludlow’s account he did nothing either criminal or against the rules of Northwestern University.
A more suitable analogy would be if you accused me of plagiarizing a paper, when what I really did was write a paper consisting entirely of long but fully and properly cited quotations, surrounded by remarks like, “I agree with X that [quotation]”. Yeah, if I were found guilty and punished by a university tribunal because of you presented false evidence for your accusation, then I might sue you.
For a redacted copy of the suit and Ludlow’s answer see https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B9etoTst5TwXOWNGZXgxZ0N5U0k/edit?pli=1. I am taking no stand in this post on the truth or falsity of the undergraduate’s or Ludlow’s accounts, or on the appropriateness of the undergraduate’s or Ludlow’s suit. My only point is about APhilosopher’s analogy.Report
Zara, K wrote, “NB: Ludlow’s conduct seems to me almost certainly objectionable; but I still don’t see why he shouldn’t try to defend himself within the law if he is accused of things that are worse than what he has actually done.”
The analogy holds for the general principle that comment suggests.
This seems like the wrong discussion to be having though–so I will leave it at that and say, again, my heart goes out to the student.Report