After allegations of mishandling of sexual assault allegations, LSU president tells board, ‘We’re committed to owning up to any mistakes’

LSU Student Union
(Photo by Julie O'Donoghue)

The out-of-state law firm that LSU hired to investigate the university’s sexual misconduct and intimate partner violence procedures will begin conducting interviews on-campus as early as next week. That firm, Husch Blackwell, is expected to produce a public report in February, and Scott Schneider, a partner with the firm LSU’s Board of Supervisors said their charge from LSU is to be thorough.

LSU moved to hire Husch Blackwell after USA Today published an investigation last month revealing that several LSU students’ complaints about sexual assault, intimate partner violence and rape were mishandled or ignored. In many of the cases, the person accused of misconduct was an LSU football player.

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.   

Schneider said LSU Interim President Tom Galligan’s and his team told him “what we want for Hutch Blackwell to do here is tell us what happened. If we made mistakes and people need to be held accountable, then they will be held accountable.”

The LSU Board of Supervisors also affirmed its support for the third party review of their sexual assault case procedures Friday, releasing a statement that says “the LSU Board of Supervisors wants to assure our community that we are actively engaged in resolving the recent accusations of mishandled sexual violence cases. We publicly reaffirm our commitment to preventing sexual violence, addressing any culture that leads to this type of behavior, and supporting victims and survivors.”

Husch Blackwell, headquartered in Kansas City, specializes in higher education litigation and compliance. The firm has been brought in to help several universities facing sexual harassment scandals, allegations of racism and, more recently, challenges with COVID-19 policies. The firm helped both the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University overhaul its sexual misconduct policies

“We’re committed to owning any mistakes we made in the past, to holding ourselves accountable and to doing better in the future,” LSU Interim President Tom Galligan said at the Board of Supervisors meeting.