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LSU Has Done Nothing on Sexual Misconduct Failures

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A report by Louisiana State University’s lead Title IX investigator two years ago showed that top athletic department administrators skirted the school’s sexual misconduct policies by keeping allegations against athletes in house, yet LSU did nothing to correct the problem.

As reported by USA Today, LSU required no additional training for athletic department officials, nor did it investigate whether the same officials had mishandled other allegations against athletes.

A USA Today investigation found officials in the school’s athletic department and broader administration repeatedly ignored complaints against abusers, denied victims’ requests for protections and subjected them to further harm by known perpetrators. In response to the investigation, LSU is paying an oustide law firm, Husch Blackwell, up to $100,000 to review cases and determine whether any wrongdoing occurred.

LSU interim president Tom Galligan told USA Today he “really wasn’t aware” of the university’s problems handling sexual misconduct until the news organization published its investigation last month. Both Galligan and LSU’s Board of Supervisors have promised accountability for any LSU officials found to have mishandled allegations. But the November 2018 Title IX report obtained by USA Today, demonstrates that the school has long known of the problem and that LSU took no action when athletic department officials violated Title IX policies in the past.

The report shows that deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry and football recruiting director Sharon Lewis admitted it was their practice to steer allegations against athletes to Miriam Segar, a senior associate athletic director, instead of reporting them directly to the Title IX coordinator, as LSU policy requires.

LSU has since promoted Lewis and Ausberry. Segar remains in her current role. Ausberry also sits on the committee that will select a new LSU president — a president who will be tasked with ensuring that any reforms recommended by the outside firm are carried out. 

In response to USA Today’s November investigation, head football coach Ed Orgeron said LSU employees have both a “legal and moral” obligation to report all allegations of sexual misconduct and dating violence to the Title IX office for investigation.

“When we become aware of accusations, we have an obligation to immediately report every allegation to the University’s Title IX office so that appropriate due process can be implemented,” he said in a statement to USA Today.

Yet the 2018 Title IX report shows that Lewis and Ausberry had a practice of reporting such allegations not to the Title IX office, but to a point person in athletics: Segar. That was also the guidance from Alleva, the former athletic director, his written messages to staff show. 

Using an athletic department official as a middle man for sexual misconduct complaints against athletes amounts to “impeding the university’s ability and obligation under Title IX to promptly investigate and eliminate sexual violence,” said Elizabeth Taylor, a Temple University professor who studies sexual assault within athletic organizations.

“It’s a huge conflict of interest for the athletic department,” Taylor said. “They were essentially allowing this senior associate athletic director the ability to make decisions about whether or not to continue to report things up the chain. They’re playing the decision-maker when it’s not their decision.”

In an interview with USA Today, Galligan was unable to point to a single action or measure that the university has taken in the two years since the report to address the problems it identified.

“We remind people that everybody who is a responsible party has an obligation to report,” Galligan said. “We’ve probably done the same things for the last few years but tried to do them – tried to emphasize. Certainly we’re emphasizing them now.”

As reported by NBC affiliate WVLA in Baton Rouge, LSU spokesperson Ernie Ballard responded to the latest USA Today report with the following statement:

“LSU has hired independent experts to conduct a thorough and comprehensive review of past allegations, as well as of our sexual assault reporting protocols. They will have all the records and facts at their disposal which no other entity – including any media outlet – has access to due to privacy laws. Our current administration is committed to righting any wrongs that may have occurred in the past, regardless of how long ago, including taking swift and appropriate action based on the findings of the review.”

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