Saturday, February 15, 2014

Title IX Lawsuit Filed Against Northwestern

A female student at Northwestern University alleges in a lawsuit filed this week that the university violated Title IX by failing to adequately respond to her reports that she was sexually assaulted by a male philosophy professor in 2012. According to her complaint, the student accompanied the professor to an art show, where he bought her alcohol and then refused her requests to take her home.  Instead, she alleges, he brought her to his apartment where she lost consciousness and awoke the next morning in his bed.  She reported the case to a faculty member, who in turn reported to a university official responsible for sexual harassment prevention.  This official conducted an investigation and apparently made a finding that the professor had  “engaged in unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances,” including “sleeping with his arms on and around (the student) on the night of February 10-11.”  But the university ignored a disciplinary committee's recommendation that the professor be terminated, and he continues to hold his job.  Meanwhile, the student has attempted suicide and suffers from post-traumatic stress that has required hospitalization.

The lawsuit argues that the university's failure to discipline the professor is "deliberate indifference" that subjects the university to liability under Title IX for the student's damages, including medical and educational expenses and compensation for emotional distress.  The professor is not a defendant to this lawsuit, though he may have to contend with criminal charges.  He, meanwhile, denies the student's allegations, and has sued local papers for defamation, alleging that they falsely characterized the allegations against him as rape in their reports about the case.