Newly elected Student Body President accused of sexual misconduct

At least four women have come forward with allegations of unwanted sexual advancements from Carl Ludewig

This past Thursday, April 8th, the results of the NDSU Student Body Elections were announced. What should have been a relatively celebratory moment was tainted by information about allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment from Carl Ludewig, the newly elected Student Body President. 

Only two days earlier, in the midst of the election process, had these allegations publicly been brought to light. The Instagram page, blmndsu, released screenshots of a conversation with an individual who came to them to discuss their interactions with Ludewig.

As this individual said, “He harassed me and other girls my freshman year at [NDSU]…It was more like him trying to manipulate me into being in a romantic relationship and when he got drunk he’d say all this sexual, disgusting shit. The next day he claimed to not remember what he said and apologized. This behavior became a pattern.”

Within a few hours, another person approached the page to share their stories as well. Notably, they shared that they had already spoken with the NDSU Equity Office: “[W]e have already filed a [T]itle [IX], we weren’t going to say anything, but things feel like it’s being swe[pt] under the rug. It’s been a month in the making of filing complaints, finding victims and now we have a hall director who just filed a report.”

Since some individuals were quick to criticize these women who chose to come forward in the midst of the election, it’s, of course, important to recognize that they tried to say something far in advance, but were met with inaction. 

The individual above continued, “I [don’t know] it just seems like they could have at least stopped the election or postponed it for an investigation,” which, when you consider the weight of the allegations at play, feels like an incredibly reasonable request. 

Then, within a matter of hours, two more people came forward with allegations. The first said: “[H]e drunk snapped my roommate freshman year and said he had a boner and how beautiful he thought she was knowing she was in a relationship. [H]e’s a creep…who thinks women owe him something (this coming from someone who used to be friends with him).”

The second person described an experience that was starting to sound fairly familiar: “Carl and I were friends and he snapped me one night when he was drunk saying he had a boner and that he wanted to show me. Since we were friends it made me extremely uncomfortable and he obviously did not care about how I felt in the situation.”

This pattern is of course deeply troubling, but I did want to share my own personal experience. Though I never interacted with Ludewig, my freshman year at NDSU I had three people warn me separately to stay away from him. At a university of our size, I have never been warned about a man with whom I had never had contact, let alone warned three separate times. 

The experience of course stuck with me. When Ludewig came to visit my residence hall my freshman year on behalf of Student Government, there were women who made sure to watch that he left the building before they felt comfortable returning to their rooms. So when this information came out last week, I was of course disheartened, but not at all surprised. 

I reached out to one of the women who had warned me, who also happened to be the original whistleblower. They elaborated on their interactions with him, “[Carl] was very sweet at first but every time he got drunk at marching band parties (which was often), he would say very explicit things about my appearance and what he wanted to do to me… I heard multiple accounts of the same behavior.”

When asked why they chose to come forward, this individual said, “I chose to speak out because the face of the student body shouldn’t be someone who sexually harasses people. It really reflects on NDSU’s values. Yet, I’m not surprised that NDSU condones the behavior.”

So what happened after these allegations were brought to light? Prompt response from the Equity Office? Statements from the Ludewig-Friedmann campaign? Student Government looking into handling sexual misconduct from members within their organization? No, none of that, but Ludewig did get elected for Student Body President. 

Really, it’s no mystery why. By the time the information was brought to the attention of the students, many had already voted in the Student Body Election. More than this, most of the endorsements from current Student Government members, including our current President, Matthew Friedmann, were not rescinded.

In a statement, Friedmann said, “I spent a long time considering if I would make an endorsement for the incoming tickets this year. After watching the debate and analyzing the platforms I concluded that Carl and Laura were the best option moving forward. That is what I considered when deciding my endorsement which I made before these students came forward.”

Friedmann continued, “As the current student body president, I cannot comment on pending student conduct issues. However, I am proud of the students who showed bravery by coming forward and sharing their stories. I trust that NDSU has a fair and objective system for dealing with these matters.”

Matthew Friedmann’s comments make it unclear if it still supports Ludewig; however, his support of the students who came forward is commendable. Although, the situation is slightly clouded by Laura Friedmann’s comments, Ludewig’s running mate.

As Laura Friedmann said, “I am aware of the situation and at this time I do not have a comment as nothing has been officially brought forth from the student conduct office. I encourage any student affected by the situation to reach out to University Officials.”

Matthew Friedmann cannot take a stand because there is a ‘pending conduct issue’ and Laura Friedmann cannot take a stand because ‘nothing has been brought forth from the student conduct office.’ 

As current Student Body President and incoming Student Body Vice President, these two are certainly in a tight spot, but clear support for victims on this issue from leadership would be nice for survivors and women to hear. This idea that women will only be believed if they are able to prove something happened to them, even though these instances are incredibly hard to provide proof for, is a concerning message to send to students.

There are some within Student Government taking a clear stance. McKenna Warcken, the Assistant Executive Commissioner of External Affairs, said to me, “I ended up taking back my endorsement from Ludewig-Friedmann because even if people don’t think that these women are telling the truth, I want the women to know there are people on their side and willing to listen.”

Warcken continued, “As someone who has personally been through and dealt with sexual assault, it’s painful as hell watching people debate the truth of the allegations and trying to find some ulterior motive.”

Warcken is the only Student Government member, to my knowledge, to make a statement directly standing behind those who spoke up. The silence from current Student Government members, newly elected members for next year, the school itself following the allegations and most notably, Ludewig (who at the time of writing this has yet to make a statement), has not gone unnoticed.

As a student, as a woman, as a survivor and as someone who knows some of these individuals and more importantly, doesn’t know many more, I’m both deeply troubled and hurt by the inaction on NDSU’s part, but more aptly, by the silence of my peers who certainly know better than to remain silent. 

So what can be done? As the individual who first came forward to expose their experience with Ludewig recommended, “To make the situation right, NDSU needs to investigate Carl’s actions and actually hold him accountable. Carl, to make things right, apologize for making so many feel unsafe on campus and step down. It’s the least you can do.”

An investigation is of course well overdue. The results of the Student Body Election should have been held, but since that is gone and past, moves to prepare next year’s incoming Student Body President and Vice President should wait until this investigation is complete. 

Quite honestly, my hopes aren’t incredibly high that these victims will be heard even with an investigation.

While I personally believe these women, it’s unclear what Ludewig’s intentions were in this case. Regardless of these intentions though, his impact was one that made numerous individuals deeply uncomfortable, and as someone who was passionate enough about NDSU to want to be the Student Body President, he should take issue with that position carrying a bad reputation.

Clearly, there are still advocates within Student Government, as Warcken said, “I applaud [these women] for taking action even though it must’ve been terrifying for them to come forward with it. I’m sorry that NDSU didn’t do anything quick enough and you felt like you had to take it into your own hands to deal with it.” 

To those who have remained silent: you are still within your power to try to repair this broken situation. People make mistakes, but it is what they do after making mistakes that speaks volumes to their character.

My freshmen year, when a close friend came to breakfast sick to her stomach because of a sexually explicit Snapchat she had been sent from Ludewig, I should have done everything in my power to make sure that never had to happen again. To this individual, I’m incredibly sorry. 

To the individuals who have not been taken seriously by a system meant to protect them, I’m sorry as well. Women should not have to be responsible for the actions of the men who make them feel unsafe. 

To everyone else who remains silent or evasive: show these people you give a damn and do something. 

Update: Since this article’s publication, Carl Ludewig released an identical statement to Laura Friedmann.

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