LSU hires law firm to review sexual misconduct policies after negative report

Newspaper questions whether LSU protects women from sexual misconduct

Tiger Stadium
LSU's Tiger Stadium

LSU officials announced they have hired a law firm to conduct an independent review of its sexual misconduct policies in the wake of a USA Today investigation in which several female students said violence and sexual assault perpetrated by football players and other male students had been ignored by the school.  

Federal laws and LSU’s own policies require administrators to take complaints of sexual assault seriously and immediately report them to the university’s Title IX office. However, the USA Today investigation uncovered how LSU administrators and coaches failed to investigate and report allegations of sexual misconduct and domestic violence, including when high-profile athletes were involved.  

At least nine football players were reported to the police for sexual misconduct since LSU Coach Ed Orgeron took over in 2016, USA Today found.

The newspaper also interviewed another LSU student who is accusing former LSU star and Baton Rouge native Derrius Guice of sexual misconduct. The newspaper had previously reported in August that two women had accused Guice of raping them while he attended LSU. A former Sports Illustrated reporter has also come forward and said Guice threatened her while she was working on a story about him playing for LSU.

Despite these incidents, Guice was never removed from the LSU football team and went on to play in the NFL. He was let go from Washington’s professional team earlier this year though, after being charged with multiple accounts of domestic violence.

In his morning press conference ahead of this week’s matchup with Arkansas, Orgeron briefly acknowledged the news article without actually addressing any of its allegations.

“Before we start, I’d like to address the USA Today article that came out,” Orgeron said. “First I want to say that we need to support and protect victims of violence, sexual abuse of any kind. There’s no place in our society nor on this campus or on our football program for any behavior of this type.

“When accusations are made, we have a legal and moral obligation to report every allegation to the university’s Title IX office so due process can be implemented. I have in the past, and will continue to take appropriate action and comply with reporting protocols. I have confidence that the university is working to address our policies and processes when allegations arise. That is all I’m going to say at this time.”

LSU also held four male students — not members of the football team — responsible for sexual misconduct but allowed them to stay on campus and continue their classes, according to USA Today. In one case, a female victim had to sit in the same classroom with her attacker — who was separately accused of assaulting two other students. The school ignored her request that they move the male student to another class, the newspaper reported.

“LSU needs to make sure their policies and procedures are compliant with Title IX and then actually follow and enforce them,” said Morgan Lamandre, an attorney at STAR (Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response) who represents student victims of sexual assault in Title IX cases. “Students have a right to feel like their sexual assault complaints are taken seriously and will be investigated fairly.”

STAR Vice President Rebecca Marchiafava said the cause of LSU’s missteps could have more to do with institutional culture rather than simple awareness or training.

“I think it’s safe to say there are particular issues within the culture of athletics,” Marchiafava said. “It may not be intentional, but it does allow sexual assault to be tolerated, and we see that all the time across every level of athletics from high school to college to professional.”

LSU officials did not directly respond to questions from the Louisiana Illuminator but later released a statement that the university has hired a law firm to conduct an investigation into how administrators handled the students’ complaints.

“Today, a news article portrayed LSU as an institution that is indifferent to allegations of abuse and sexual violence among students,” Interim President Thomas Galligan said in the press release. “Specifically, the article points to a number of allegations of misconduct from 2016 to 2018 that were allegedly ignored, dismissed outright or mishandled by coaches and university officials.

“I want to assure you that LSU takes every report of sexual assault or violence seriously. We investigate them thoroughly, support victims sensitively, and hold offenders accountable. However, we are not perfect, and we can, and will, do better. A single instance of abuse or sexual violence is one too many…To help us improve, we have retained Husch Blackwell, a renowned law firm with deep expertise in higher education, to conduct an independent, comprehensive review of our Title IX policies and procedures. We anticipate that they will wrap up their review in the spring.

“If you are a victim of abuse and did not report the incident, or you reported it and believe it was not handled properly by anyone at LSU, please call our Title IX office at 225-578-3918. Any information you are willing to share, no matter how long ago the incident took place, is important. You have my word that we will respond promptly to any report of misconduct and investigate it in a manner that is fair and equitable to everyone involved.”

Following the release of the USA Today article, LSU Student Government President Stone Cox expressed disappointment with how LSU has handled sexual assault.

“I am truly disgusted with LSU’s actions dealing with sexual assault. My prayers are with the survivors who too often have had to face these issues alone,” Cox wrote on Twitter

Cox said the student government would be hosting sexual misconduct training sessions and discussions about sexual violence later this week. 

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