Controversy Over Rutgers’ Potential Hiring of Northwestern Professor Accused of Sexual Assault

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A potential new hire at Rutgers has become the topic of controversy at the school, due to a lawsuit alleging he sexually assaulted an undergraduate student at his current job.

Peter Ludlow, a candidate for a professor position in Rutgers' prestigious philosophy department and a current professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, has been accused in a February 2014 lawsuit filed against the university.

The student's lawsuit against Northwestern alleges that the university had improperly handled her original complaint that Ludlow had sexually assaulted her, and therefore committed sex discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

The student also filed a lawsuit against Ludlow under the Illinois Gender Violence Act.

According to the Chicago Reader, the student alleges that in February 2012, after attending an art event together, Ludlow coerced her into drinking alcohol despite the fact that she was underage at the time.

Ludlow later took her to his apartment despite her protests, and touched her against her will, according to the lawsuit.

According to popular philosophy blog Leiter Reports, Ludlow had accepted an offer from Rutgers' Department of Philosophy in November 2013.

Ludlow, well-known for his work in the philosophy of language and the philsophy of cyberspace, had also accepted a position at Rutgers' Center for Cognitive Science.

A Rutgers spokesman responded to the controversy around the pending lawsuits, stating that the university was not aware of the allegations when Ludlow was considered for employment, and that it would be reviewing his candidacy.

According to Northwestern's student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, students at the Illinois university have organized meetings and demonstrations criticizing the administration's response to Ludlow's case.

Similarly, the accusations against Ludlow and his potential employment at Rutgers have not escaped the attention of the Rutgers student body.

On February 17, the Rutgers' student newspaper published an editorial titled “Rutgers doesn't need another scandal,” assessing the impact of controversial staff and faculty hires on the university's reputation, and criticizing the university's recent high-profile scandal involving abuse allegations against athletic director Julie Hermann.

Women Organizing Against Harassment (WOAH), a student organization focused on raising awareness of sexual assault and gender violence, delivered a letter to University president Robert Barchi's office on March 7 asking that the University's procedures for hiring new faculty be expanded to prevent the hiring of individuals convicted of sexual assault.

According to the letter, the organization is “disconcerted with the apparent lack of procedural oversight and possibility of anything less than a no-tolerance policy regarding any breech of basic human rights.”

The group also requested a meeting with Barchi to discuss the matter.

According to Sarah Beth Kaye, a Rutgers junior who helped to start WOAH, the group is responding to the controversy, but is more concerned with the oversight of histories of sexual assault when faculty members are hired.

“Peter Ludlow's case isn't unique because it happened, but rather unique because we know about it,” she said.

University administrators, but not Barchi himself, met with WOAH on March 24 to address the group's concerns.

Today the group is holding a daytime vigil in support of survivors of interpersonal violence on the steps of the school's main dining hall.

WOAH is in its second year on the Rutgers campus, and according to the group is "aimed at eliminating sexual harassment and gender violence on campus." The organization meets every Tuesday at 9:10PM in the Women’s Center on the third floor of the Douglass Campus Center.

Editor's Note: Sarah Beth Kaye is a senior writer for New Brunswick Today.

Editor at New Brunswick Today | 732-993-9697 |

Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.