Forum: Developments in the Ludlow case

Sorry for the delays in the breaking news on Professor Tooley, everyone. My computer’s been in the repair shop and I’ve had to devote my limited access to other activities. Tooley has now signed off on my wording of some background facts he disclosed to me, and I should have that post up in a few days’ time, at most.

In the meantime: what does everyone think of Ludlow’s Answers against his accuser and the student protests of his courses? The forum is open.

31 thoughts on “Forum: Developments in the Ludlow case

  1. Well, Ludlow made a number of verifiable assertions, so I suspect that we’ll soon have more reliable evidence. But at the moment I find his version of events more believable. His accuser, it seems, had ample opportunity to end the evening (even by her own account), so it’s surprising that she didn’t exercise that option if she really was that distressed by Ludlow’s behavior. She was in Chicago, after all, and not in a cabin in the woods. You’d think that she’d at least have texted a friend and asked to be picked up.

    • The student would probably argue that she was too intoxicated to make good decisions, and that it was Ludlow’s fault, of course, that she was intoxicated.

      But I do agree, and hope, that much of the matter will be settled by objective evidence. One of the good things about the charges having been leveled against Ludlow so soon after the event is that he would be able to line up whatever countervailing evidence may exist.

      I assume that he wasn’t just blowing smoke when he talked about the existence of security video tapes from the elevator. If those tapes exist and show nothing remarkable going on between the two of them, I don’t see how the student retains any credibility, given her strong claims as to how Ludlow supposedly groped her in that elevator. It will also be very bad both for Slavin and Northwestern if they refused to examine those tapes before rendering their verdict.

      • I’m sure you’re right that she’d argue that, and it’s not inconceivable that that’s what happened, but even according to her own version of events she had her wits about her when they were in Ludlow’s apartment for the first time. After all, she suggested (on her account) that they go to another exhibit, which she claimed she had proposed as a ruse to get out of his apartment. But then why wouldn’t she have just left when he then took her to another bar? Presumably no alcohol was consumed from the time of her “ruse” to the time they went to the next bar. I suppose she might claim that that’s when the alcohol really kicked in, but that seems implausible.

      • I do generally agree with you that there seem to be major holes of implausibility in the student’s story. If I had to guess based on current evidence, I’d say that Ludlow’s account is more likely to hold up — though I can see how it might go either way in the end.

        The problem with the “feminist” side on these sorts of stories is that they seem utterly incapable of acknowledging that the woman in the story might be fabricating or distorting facts. I don’t, on the other hand, know of people on the “other side” of the issue, whatever that amounts to, who don’t acknowledge the real possibility of sexual harassment, and who routinely conclude that an accusation must be false. There really is a deep asymmetry in attitude here.

        From my point of view, there exist, in non-trivial numbers, both sexual predators on the one hand, and borderline, and/or narcissistic, and/or sociopathic personalities who will make false accusations on the other. I won’t pretend to know how many of each exist. But our judgments, if they are to be guided in any important way by basic fairness, will factor into account both possibilities.

    • “I don’t, on the other hand, know of people on the “other side” of the issue, whatever that amounts to, who don’t acknowledge the real possibility of sexual harassment, and who routinely conclude that an accusation must be false. There really is a deep asymmetry in attitude here.”

      The accusations against Ludlow may very well be true, I haven’t really followed the case. You have correctly diagnosed the problem with feminists, they reflexively assume guilt without examining the evidence.

      Of course they’re are genuine sexual harassers in philosophy, but where is the evidence of a wide spread sexual harassment problem? The CSWP has no stats to support the notion that philosophy has a problem (or at least a bigger problem than other fields). Of course good isn’t good enough for some people they want zero sexual harassment, but what would it cost to achieve that? In practice to get to zero you would have to create a mini-police state, an extremely unpleasant environment!

  2. I, too, would be very surprised if it turned out that Ludlow’s claims about the elevator security video, the bars’ records of what was purchased, the photographs he describes of that evening, the correspondence he describes with the provost, and so on were all fabrications of his. Why would he concoct a bogus defense that could so easily be proven false? As you say, we should find out soon enough whether the evidence supports his story.

    If the security cameras from the elevator do turn out to falsify the student’s story by showing that nothing was going on there, then my best guess is that the student may really be in the midst of some sort of psychological crisis. In that case, as bad as it is to make up such a story about someone, I couldn’t be sure that it isn’t a genuinely believed delusion. I’m not sure how morally culpable she would be then. But if the evidence proves that the accusation is fake, that would certainly confirm Ludlow’s story that Slavin and the provost acted very badly in refusing to consider the evidence prior to the school’s passing a very serious judgment against him. Ludlow was materially harmed by these accusations before they became public, and quite possibly his reason for not contesting his punishment is that doing so would allow the story to get out and harm his reputation through rumor. But if that is so, then he no longer has any reason to refrain from publicizing what seems to be a very unjust and irresponsible investigation process.

    Also, I wonder what could have led Slavin to conclude that Ludlow did sleep with his arms around the student and kiss her but that he did not (or did not clearly) fondle her, and so on, if (as he claims) she was unwilling to consider his evidence. How does one conduct an investigation without considering evidence from both sides? One interesting possibility that struck me on reading through the fuller accusation against Ludlow is that the points Slavin doubted all seem to have taken place when the student reports being so drunk that she was fading in and out of consciousness. If this is how the student told her story to Slavin, is it possible that Slavin decided on the basis of the student’s testimony alone that her general account of the evening must be true at all the points where the student reports being vividly conscious?

    I’m also interested in the ethical question of how the media covered the story, especially in the TV news clip.

  3. Highly Adequate: I think you’re right about their inability to acknowledge the possibility that the woman may be be distorting or fabricating the facts. But, if I may speculate, I suspect that, for some on the feminist side, the particular facts of the case are largely beside the point. They see Ludlow not as an individual but as a type — a man in position of authority who is accustomed to getting his way, exploiting that authority to take advantage of naive and unsuspecting women. Their primary goal, I suspect, is to send those men a message. And if that’s the goal, then Ludlow’s guilt or innocence, or the particular facts of the case, are largely irrelevant. After all, if he is convicted, or stripped of his position of power, a message will have been sent regardless of his actual guilt or innocence.

    All this reminds me of a standard criticism of utilitarianism — that a utilitarian would endorse convicting an innocent man if that would stop a rampaging mob. Some feminists, I think, believe that there’s a rampaging mob of sexual predators out there who routinely get away with it because they occupy positions of power. And if the price of stopping that mob is to convict a few innocents, then so be it. What else might explain their insensitivity to the particular facts and their unwillingness to consider the possibility that the woman might be distorting or fabricating?

  4. Let’s say for the sake of argument that Ludlow’s side of the story is true. Then it’s still the story of a 57 year old professor who decided to ‘go for’ a freshman student who was into him. Does nobody here find that problematic in itself? I mean, she was in his class at the time.
    Oh, btw, the one point I’m not willing to grant is that Ludlow (aos: the internet) didn’t know (or look up immediately) what “DTF” means.

  5. “Then it’s still the story of a 57 year old professor who decided to ‘go for’ a freshman student who was into him.”

    Excuse me, where did Ludlow admit to anything that could be fairly described as him deciding to “go for” this student?

    As for whether he knew what “DTF” might mean, it’s not even obvious how his claim that he didn’t understand what it meant might serve his larger narrative. If he understood what it meant at the time she uttered it, what follows? And it strikes me as very plausible he didn’t know what that particular expression meant, because I’m sure it’s mainly in great use by the hipster crowd on social media, which isn’t exactly his circle. And why might he even look it up necessarily, until he was threatened with action at Northwestern?

    The deeper question in all this is why you feel it’s so important to invent or distort facts when the facts of which we have knowledge don’t decide things one way or another as to Ludlow’s blameworthiness here.

    Why always the premature castigation?

  6. Though the specifics are nearly all wrong, Tim’s point isn’t entirely without merit. Ludlow did show appallingly bad judgment in going on a date-like outing with an undergrad from his university, who he’d recently had as a student and could have again. This is especially so if either party had feelings for the other and/or said undergrad’s mental health was precarious, though the “Answer” document (even if we assume it’s accurate) is unclear, possibly intentionally so, on how much Ludlow knew about these things beforehand.

    The alcohol stuff aside, that’s not a crime or even a tort, and I doubt it’s a firing offence. I’m sure at least some of the protesters he’s had would admit that, if those are indeed the relevant facts, they don’t rise to the level of justifying those protesters’ actions. (Some wouldn’t, I’m sure, but I think Bryan is onto something about why that would be.) But it’s still appallingly bad professional judgment, and repeat performances would be firing-worthy.

  7. I should say Tim’s *first* point isn’t entirely without merit. I know the ‘net better than a lot of academics who ostensibly study it, to judge by the scholarship they produce, and I only learned what “DTF” meant from reading Ludlow’s filing.

  8. Also, even if Ludlow isn’t telling the truth about the alcohol aspect of things, those who focus criticism there are, I think, oddly selective in which alcohol offences they take seriously. It should be no revelation to anyone that undergrads drink, whatever the local laws where they find themselves say. If the feminist (or any) critic of Ludlow has an issue with this in the general case, it puts her in some very dubious company. If she doesn’t, then why does it suddenly become a hanging offence under these particular circumstances?

    At any rate, the silliest thing there is setting the drinking age at 21. I have to keep reminding myself that’s even the case, because I’ve spent all my life in Alberta and Manitoba (legal minimum 18) except for a few years as a grad student at Rice (where the de jure minimum might be 21, but as long as it’s kept within certain reasonable limits the de facto minimum is “being a Rice student”).

  9. I agree that speculation is unwise. But there are some things we know definitively, and they include that if Ludlow’s story is correct in the details, and if Slavin took the accuser’s word as sufficient to censure Ludlow without considering countervailing evidence, and that this bogus extralegal means of punishing Ludlow led to his subsequent loss of a chair, move to another university, and public condemnation, the time will be well night past for a serious purging of the ideology driving this affair.

  10. No, there is not enough evidence to support conditional assertions. The conclusion you assert is vague and unsupported with argument or evidence. We do not “know” anything of the kind, let alone know that an “ideology [is] driving this affair”–much less “definitively.”

    • “No, there is not enough evidence to support conditional assertions.”

      Psst…try not to say things like that in earshot of philosophers. They’ll start to make nasty little derisive jokes about you.

      You know how they are.

  11. There is plenty of evidence to support the conditional and its consequent is not vague. If Slavin used an internally-sanctioned institution of the University to do an end-run around basic procedures of judicial fairness and due process then the evidence of ideological motivation is as plain as the color of Slavin’s skin.

    So I repeat: if Ludlow’s account is accurate then the people responsible for fostering this injustice are past due serious criticism, and the institutions in which they work should receive a spring-cleaning.

  12. The repetition is of a factual antecedent “Ludlow’s account is accurate” and a normative conclusion “the people fostering this injustice are past due serious criticism… .” There is no sense in which one could definitively know, as you put it, any such conclusion from factual premises. The conclusion does not stand, and no argument, cogent or otherwise, has been advanced to support it.

    • What is this? Pulling the is-ought thing in the middle of a discussion like this?

      Can you even chew gum without pompously declaring a fallacy in it?

  13. One who calls for an argument linking a factual claim about the presence of an injustice to a normative conclusion that those responsible for the injustice are culpable is either being deliberately obtuse or is confused about what they’re talking about. Should Ludlow’s account of the facts prove accurate and Slavin used an internally-sanctioned institution of the University to do an end-run around basic procedures of judicial fairness and due process then she and those who have supported her in this, whether professionally or by way of semi-professional venues like philosophical blogs, will be culpable for the injustices they are perpetuating.

    Regardless of whatever else we are ignorant of, this is something we know right now.

  14. Perhaps you are sympathetic to Putnam’s view that there is no strict fact-value dichotomy. One could simply state this, or, at least, supply the missing premise without introducing extraneous remarks about your interlocutor. I take the eagerness with which you do resort to extraneous extra-logical remarks about obtuseness and confusion, or possibly tellingly, unnecessary remarks about Slavin’s skin color, indicative of what has been termed a climate problem in philosophy. Are these remarks made in good faith? I admit I have no evidence to suggest they are ideologically motivated. Also, there is no evidence that the handling of evidence by Slavin was ideologically motivated–there are many explanations.

  15. “Perhaps you are sympathetic to Putnam’s view that there is no strict fact-value dichotomy. One could simply state this, or, at least, supply the missing premise without introducing extraneous remarks about your interlocutor.”

    I am merely recording that one who exhibits the lack of reading comprehension that you have here is either intentionally obtuse or just confused. There is no abrogation of the fact/value dichotomy when one asserts, as I have from the beginning, that if Ludlow’s account is accurate and Slavin willfully violated standards of due process in censuring him then she, her supporters, and the institutions set up to enable that injustice are due to receive some serious professional criticism. Really anonymous, this just amounts to understanding the connection between justice and its violation.

    As for ‘extraneous remarks about [my] interlocutor’–let me just point out that it is your manifest failure to understand what we’re talking about that makes it look as though you are indeed suffering under a corrupt notion of social justice. Perhaps you ought to take more seriously the criticism you are receiving before you go supposing that your interlocutor is the problem.

    “I take the eagerness with which you do resort to extraneous extra-logical remarks about obtuseness and confusion, or possibly tellingly, unnecessary remarks about Slavin’s skin color, indicative of what has been termed a climate problem in philosophy.”

    And here we have the bent-wing theatrics of the offended. But the fact remains that if Ludlow is correct then the ideological biases motivating Slavin will be as evident as her skin color.

  16. The hallucinated theatrics of the purportedly offended is your presumption, evidence of abysmsal reading comprehension (a devastating deficit for someone who claims to be a professional philosopher), and contempt for the epistemic values of knowledge, understanding and learning. You do not deserve epistemic standing.

  17. I made no presumption anonymous. You’re the one casting sideways glances around because someone dared to use skin color as an analogy. That, combined with your evident failure to follow the conversation, shows that there’s something wrong with the way you’ve been trained to think. The fact that you go on to suppose that one who calls you out on this nonsense is then beyond the ken of rational exchange…well, I trust that in the fullness of time you will appreciate that it’s petulant little hiccups like this that exhibit the character of the view you are working with.

  18. Leiter has put up his post about due process and sexual harassment.

    He rails against the vigilante justice at Northwestern, but expresses his own puzzlement as to why Northwestern didn’t punish Ludlow more severely, given their own findings, as now detailed in the suit of the student against Northwestern.

    But I can think of one obvious sort of reason it might not have done so: because its own findings were already corrupted by its own egregious failure in due process. Both Slavin and Northwestern knew that their process of determining “findings” did not (at least according to Ludlow) allow any kind of rebuttal on the basis of objective evidence. They would know therefore that their position was shaky in the extreme, and they would not want to punish Ludlow so severely that he’d be likely to sue them. (I also strongly suspect that it was for similar reasons Slavin mysteriously found all of the student’s allegations to be true except for the most damaging one, namely that Ludlow supposedly groped her, which is probably a form of sexual assault– such a finding would very likely have demanded harsher punishment.) And “overfinding” would have the virtue, from their point of view, of inducing Ludlow to accede to a less severe punishment than that finding would ordinarily merit.

    Of course (on this theory), the whole sham got exposed when the student filed her lawsuit, which Northwestern probably didn’t see coming. And then the incongruity between the finding and the punishment couldn’t be escaped.

    And so vigilante justice.

  19. Can anyone explain the rationale for keeping the identity of Ludlow’s accuser anonymous? It’s easy to find her name online with basic knowledge of the case, and yet no media outlet reporting on the issue has mentioned it.

  20. Another hysterical over-interpretation (I assure you I type in silence, without rancor): I did not cast “sideways glances around because someone dared to use skin color as an analogy.” Nonsense. I said the reference was possibly telling, but I did not say how. Now I will: this was a second-order reference, not to the use of skin color as an analogy, which is neither here nor there (and hardly daring), but as an acknowledgement of the use of an analogy that might be considered provocative to an ideologue or to someone hypersensitive about such things. That you enjoy the thought that I might “cast sideways glances” (this is your imagination) shows that you are perfectly aware that some personalities might seize on this as evidence of some moral failing on your part. You are rightly concerned about ideologues and failures of due process. But I was acknowledging your use of the analogy as an unimaginative exercise in brinkmanship, somewhere to the left of me on the Bell Curve. Think of me as a rat who deftly removes the bait from a deadly trap without springing it–with all the intelligence and depravity that implies.

    • But I am not depraved. For one thing, I don’t see any good in revealing names, if this is what the anonymous of March 18 is driving at. If it were my forum, I would not have let that comment stand, without remark. McGinn is correct about the fight he speaks about.

  21. You can go through whatever sort of mental contortions you’d like anonymous. But the facts remain: you think there’s something of note in the use of skin color as an analogy; you think it’s of note because you think there’s something about my character that might be divined from that use; and nevertheless:

    if Ludlow’s account is accurate and Slavin elided standards of due process then her biases will be as evident as her skin color.

    Really bud, these are the issues your hot-stepping around skin color are ignoring.

  22. Here’s the problem anonymous–you’ve at once confused yourself about the train of conversation and focused on an offhand remark as though it were evidence I was a knave(or “might” be, as you so liberally throw around that epistemic modal in defense of your ignorant behavior). Truly, you are exhibiting the very thing that’s wrong with the view you are defending–it is at once ignorant of the facts and disastrous of common well being. In sum I say to you sir, go fuck yourself.

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