Firing Unnecessary After Tryst at Northwestern

     CHICAGO (CN) – Though Northwestern University did not fire a professor accused of groping a student, it took reasonable protection measures, a federal judge found.
     In a February complaint, Yoona Ha said she attempted suicide two days after reporting to Northwestern that she woke up in the apartment of her philosophy professor, Peter Ludlow.
     Ha says she was “too intoxicated to put up any meaningful resistance to defendant’s unwelcome advances,” passed out, and woke up in Ludlow’s bed, on top of the sheets, with her clothes on, and his arm around her.
     Though the university’s investigation found that Ludlow made inappropriate sexual advances towards Ha, it did not fire the tenured professor.
     Ha claimed the university retaliated against her for complaining about Ludlow by denying her a fellowship, and refusing to refund her study-abroad deposit when she dropped out of the program.
     U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber dismissed Ha’s suit on Thursday, finding that Northwestern took “timely, reasonable, and successful measures to end the harassment,” by instructing Ludlow not to have any contact with her.
     “The defendant took disciplinary action against Ludlow without disclosing the specifics other than instructing him to have no contact with plaintiff,” the eight-page opinion states. “Ludlow acceded to this instruction, and, other than an occasional glimpse of him on the campus, there was no other contact between the two, other than the attorney correspondence. So as far as plaintiff herself is concerned, according to the complaint, there was no other contact. She, however, claims that knowledge of Ludlow’s presence on the campus caused her considerable grief. However, this is not actionable under Title IX.”
     Northwestern also told the court that it had denied Ludlow a raise, revoked his honorary chair and canceled his classes for the rest of the year. Ludlow is scheduled to teach a class again in spring 2015.
     Judge Leinenweber found that none of the actions that the university allegedly took against Ha were plausible as retaliation.
     Ha’s suit against Ludlow himself is still pending in court.
     The complaint described how Ha had taken Ludlow’s class Philosophy of Cyberspace in the fall of her freshman year, “exploring the philosophical meaning of what is considered ‘real life’ and what is considered ‘virtual life.'”
     Things went too far, according to the complaint, after Ha agreed to accompany Ludlow to a February 2012 art event related to Ludlow’s field of study that she brought to his attention.
     The student said Ludlow repeatedly talked about his sex life on their outing, and forced her to drink alcohol, despite her protest “that she is underage and that she does not want to drink.”
     She wound up at Ludlow’s apartment, where she says she was “too intoxicated to put up any meaningful resistance to defendant’s unwelcome advances,” passed out, and woke up in Ludlow’s bed, on top of the sheets, with her clothes on, and his arm around her.

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