Rutgers doesn’t need another scandal
Editorial | Search committee must thoroughly investigate potential hires
A few weeks ago, President Robert L. Barchi and the University’s Board of Governors voted on the new Strategic Plan that included plans to hire more prominent professors to add to the overall scholarship of the faculty at Rutgers. One of the latest anticipated hires at Rutgers is Peter Ludlow, who was offered a senior position and is to be appointed as the director of the Center for Cognitive Science. As a respected scholar in his field, Ludlow would be a great asset to the already strong Department of Philosophy here at Rutgers — but he is surrounded by some very disturbing controversy.
A junior at Northwestern University is now suing the school for failing to appropriately follow through with her complaints that Ludlow sexually assaulted her when she was a first-year student. She claims that after they went to an art show in downtown Chicago in February 2012, he bought her alcohol and took her back to his apartment against her wishes, where she lost consciousness until the next day. The University ignored her complaint, and Ludlow continued teaching in his position without any apparent repercussions.
This is the kind of narrative we hear all too often in our society where young women are too easily taken advantage of — especially by men in positions of power. This is an ongoing investigation, and we aren’t in any position to make judgments on the outcome of the case. But the fact that there even is this kind of lawsuit surrounding a potential new faculty member at Rutgers should raise a red flag.
Our University is already on thin ice, and we really can’t afford to risk yet another scandal. We hope that there is a thorough background investigation on Ludlow if he really is going to be joining our faculty at Rutgers. His academic background would no doubt be a great asset, but we cannot allow that to cloud any judgment regarding his potentially dangerous background.
According to Rutgers’ spokesperson Greg Trevor, the administration did not have any idea about the allegations of sexual assault surrounding Ludlow until it was filed as a federal lawsuit last Monday. Although it was officially filed as a lawsuit last week, the student filed her complaint with Northwestern two years ago, a few months after the incident. It’s hard to believe that even with the meticulous search process our administration is supposed to be implementing when hiring new staff, such a huge concern was somehow completely overlooked. Northwestern may have swept the issue under the rug for the sake of their own reputation, but that doesn’t excuse Rutgers of their responsibility to take the time to look into this situation with as much care as necessary to ensure that the professor has a clean record before he joins our University.
When Rutgers was looking for a new athletic director last year, a search committee was hired to find, interview and conduct thorough background checks on eligible candidates. The search committee and the University received a great deal of criticism when Julie Hermann was selected for the position despite her controversial past of allegedly abusive coaching. Later, some members of the search committee revealed that they were uncomfortable with the rushed decision to hire Hermann, raising questions about the integrity of the search process. She was the athletic director at the University of Louisville at the time, and since they didn’t seem to have much of a problem with her, it seemed like Rutgers wasn’t too concerned either.
Our standards should not be so low that we aren’t concerned with the reputation of our University or the people associated with it until it becomes national news. We do need stronger scholarship within our faculty, but at what cost? Sexual assault is an extremely hefty accusation, and if there is even the slightest bit of truth to it, then the University will have to seriously consider if it is worth it.