By Alissa Zhu
UPDATE: Ludlow has cancelled class Tuesday. Protestors are still meeting in Harris L07 at 12:30 to discuss future action. The sit-in is scheduled to happen at Ludlow’s Thursday class at the same time and place.
Students are organizing a sit-in protest in Professor Peter Ludlow’s philosophy class in Harris L07 at 12:30 PM this Tuesday and Thursday in order to demonstrate against his continued privileged teaching position despite involvement in a lawsuit accusing him of sexually assaulting a student.
Protesters are planning on infiltrating his classroom with signs and posters and walking out at 1:00 PM. They welcome everyone to join.
The Facebook event states, “The University’s Investigations “found that Ludlow had violated the University’s policy against sexual harassment; and imposed several disciplinary sanctions and other corrective actions against Ludlow.”
The disciplinary sanctions and corrective actions mentioned include skipping out of a year’s pay-raise, deleting pictures of the student off his Facebook and entering into counseling, all of which amount to no more than a light slap on the wrist for a federal felony. Ludlow not only violated the student, but he also grievously violated basic moral codes by which all professors are expected to abide by violating his position of authority.
The Sit-in Walk-Out event is the product of a forum on Title IX on campus organized by Weinberg junior Laura Whittenburg. Around 70 students and faculty showed up to the forum Monday night to voice their outrage over university failure to protect students. The participants discussed ways to hold administrators accountable for Title IX violations.
Whittenburg said she organized the forum out of frustration at the university’s response to the Title IX lawsuit. “Northwestern would go so far as creating an investigation to verify the details of the case but they stopped short of the most critical things to get change to happen,” said Whittenburg.
“On a personal level, I know too many young women on and off campus who have faced similar battles,” said Whittenburg.
“Title IX is all of our civil rights,” said Professor Laura Beth Nielson, an associate professor of sociology and director of legal studies at Northwestern. “Title IX means that not just women, but everyone – that women, men, all gender identities are protected and have an educational environment to be safe and equal.” Nielson authored a piece in the Daily Northwestern condemning university administration’s failures to comply by Title IX regulations in its dealing with Ludlow’s crimes.
According to Nielson, the university reported three rapes on campus in 2010 as part of a federal law that requires all colleges to disclose information about crimes that occur on and around their campuses.
“There were probably 2 or 3 rapes in this room, I’m sorry to say, but it’s important to say it,” said Nielson. Things like the U.S. News & World Report school rankings serve as structural incentives for universities to lie about their sexual assault and crime statistics, said Nielson.
“It’s not a great PR move to show how many women suffered sexual assault and rape. Northwestern wants to be seen as a safe place. It wants to keep up it’s image but suppressing facts is not productive. It’s better not to play that game and publish the real statistics about sexual assaults and rapes and other similar crimes that happen on campus,” said Whittenburg.
Northwestern is part of an horrifying trend of schools being sued for Title IX violations including Dartmouth and Amherst. As the forum tried to find solutions to Northwestern’s accountability and transparency problem, students and faculty were frustrated by Northwestern’s complex and opaque disciplinary regulations. Laws on the state and national level sometimes conflict on issues of privacy versus disclosure, complicating the matter even further.
However, many constructive plans like the Sit-In Walk-Out were formulated to protest Ludlow’s continued employment and to raise awareness about the issue to important players such as alumni, parents of prospective students and Northwestern’s Board of Trustees.
“This gathering broke the taboo and the compulsion to silence public discussions about sexual violence,” said Professor Jinah Kim, the assistant director of the Asian American Studies Program at Northwestern, in an email interview following the forum. “It is important for us to create a new culture on campus, one where victims of sexual abuse and violence are not ostracized, shunned, or shamed but are supported and given the space to tell their stories.”
Northwestern alumnus Peter Limthongviratn came to the forum because he was frustrated at the way the university was handling the situation.
“I’m disgusted the university condones sexual violence by not taking actions to hold the professor accountable, to discipline hime and prevent this from ever happening again.We don’t know how many times it has happened and how many times it will continue to happen because of the system that is in place,” said Limthongviratn, who graduated in 2013.
However, Limthongviratn came out of the meeting with a sense of hope. “Seeing a coalition from people, of students and faculty who care gives me a lot of hope that a lot of people recognize this is a severe problem. This coalition gives a lot of power in organizing to change the institution,” said Limthongviratn.
In her email, Kim encouraged students to be bold and strategic when organizing demonstrations in solidarity because current university policy has failed to deliver justice.
“It is absolutely ridiculous what the administration thought was an appropriate response to a professor who was found guilty of sexual assault – being denied a raise, being told to go to sensitivity training, being told to avoid one on one contact with students! How does that make any sense? Basically he was told to police himself! This is why I think the administration should listen to the petitions – create a culture and practice of transparency and accountability,” said Kim.
“I care about the Northwestern community and I really want it to be the best it can be and safe and inclusive for students,” said Limthongviratn. He challenged more students to join the movement, “Northwestern is a community of 16,000 people. Why aren’t more people protesting? Why aren’t more people outraged? We need to send message to the university that sexual assault is not okay.”
By being silent you are perpetuating the problem and the system, said Limthongviratn. “You’re basically saying that sexual violence is okay. By not saying anything you are enabling the system to continue. That’s why Northwestern students can’t be silent.”
Updated March 6 to include quotes from Peter Limthongviratn.