LSU has not made enough of an effort to combat sexual violence, law firm says

The university suspends two athletic department employees for mishandling sexual misconduct

By: - March 5, 2021 2:30 pm

Derrius Guice #5 of the LSU Tigers reacts after a two-yard reception for touchdown against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the fourth quarter of the Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2018, in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

LSU hasn’t spent enough money or made enough of an effort to combat sexual misconduct and violence on its campus in Baton Rouge, despite being warned several times over the years that it needed to devote more resources to that cause, according to an independent analysis by the law firm Husch Blackwell.

The university has not sufficiently staffed the office that handles campus cases of sexual misconduct and violence, said Scott Schneider, an attorney who worked on the case. LSU has just one investigator that handles complaints involving Title IX — the federal regulations about sexual misconduct and gender discrimination at higher education institutions. He is responsible for handling cases on all nine of LSU’s campuses. 

“From a historical perspective, LSU has been very slow to develop policies and infrastructure and personnel,” to combat and prevent sexual misconduct and violence, Schneider said.

The university doesn’t have clear policies in place about when employees are required to report sexual violence and sexual misconduct, which creates confusion about how to handle such cases, Schneider said.

The law firm also found that LSU  has no policies in place for disciplining faculty members, coaches and other employees who fail to report information about sexual misconduct, making it difficult to punish people who haven’t fulfilled their legal obligation to notify the appropriate officials.

Schneider said LSU had been told several times that they needed more resources for the Title IX office, which handles all sexual misconduct cases, but the university never addressed the problem.

“Up until today, the university’s Title IX office has never been staffed appropriately,” Schneider said at an LSU Board of Supervisors meeting Friday “For years now, LSU’s policies around mandatory reporting have been unclear.”

“It felt as if this system, this process was designed to put victims in a position where they gave up,” Schneider said.

LSU didn’t even have a Title IX coordinator — the staff person responsible for handling sexual misconduct cases — until 2014. When it appointed a Title IX coordinator, it housed the position in LSU’s general counsel’s office, which Schneider said created a conflict of interest. Even now, the Title IX office still reports to the general counsel — a structure Husch Blackwell said was problematic. 

The mission of a Title IX coordinator can be in direct conflict with that of the general counsel’s office. The general counsel’s office is expected to defend LSU against lawsuits, among other things. A Title IX coordinator is supposed to figure out if sexual misconduct has occurred, which might create a liability for the university.   

“The problem is systemic. We didn’t allocate resources properly. We clearly had a failure of leadership and a failure of resources,” said Robert Dampf, president of the LSU Board of Supervisors.

In response to the criticism, interim LSU president Tom Galligan said the university would be forming a new Title IX and Civil Rights office, which will handle sexual misconduct cases. Galligan said the university is also bringing in a new organization to perform anti-sexual misconduct training, Sexual Trauma And Response, which is based in Baton Rouge.

LSU will also clarify its requirements for mandatory reporting by employees when they hear of incidents of sexual misconduct or domestic violence. Faculty and employees will know that they have to alert the university if they hear of such problems, he said.

Galligan has also suspended athletic department administrators Verge Ausberry and Miriam Segar. Ausberry and Segar have both been accused of mishandling sexual violence and domestic violence allegations made against football players and former LSU football coach Les Miles. Ausberry is suspended for 30 days. Segar is suspended for 21 days. The two officials will also have to go through extra training related to sexual misconduct. 

LSU hired Husch Blackwell, Schneider’s firm, to assess how its approach sexual harassment after a series of stories from the USA TODAY newspaper that detailed how the university had mishandled sexual misconduct cases. It paid the law firm $100,000 to do the review. 

USA TODAY described several cases in which LSU mishandled sexual misconduct on campus, focusing on those cases that involved fraternity brothers and the athletic department. The newspaper’s reporting, as well as that of the Advocate | Times-Picayune, focused primarily on former LSU football star Derrius Guice, former football player Drake Davis and Miles, who coached at LSU from 2005 to 2016.

Guice has been accused by multiple women of rape and other sexual misconduct. Davis had violently attacked a tennis player and an athletic department student worker who were dating him at different times. Miles has been accused of sexually harassing female student workers while he was at LSU and insisting that athletic department student workers be attractive, fit and blond if working around the football program.

Guice denies the accusations and was never arrested while at LSU, but is facing charges related to domestic violence in Virginia, where he was playing for the Washington Football Team.

Davis was kicked off the LSU football team eventually, though only after the athletic department knew for several months that he had been abusing his girlfriend, a tennis player at LSU. Davis was arrested and convicted of domestic violence, but released from his probation earlier this week, according to the Advocate.

Miles denies that he tried to kiss a female student working for the LSU athletic department in 2013, though admitted that he had communicated with female student workers via text and social media. Following complaints from female students, the athletic department prohibited Miles from communicating with its female student workers in 2013.

Former LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva had actually recommended Miles be fired, according to the Husch Blackwell report, but Miles continued to work for LSU for another three years.

Ausberry and Segar — the athletic officials suspended Friday — were aware of problems involving Miles, Guice and Davis. Davis admitted directly to Ausberry that he had hit his girlfriend, and Ausberry did not report the incident to law enforcement or LSU’s Title IX office, as he is legally required to do.

But even if he had reported the incident, Schneider said on Friday that LSU’s Title IX office did not have enough staff or resources to handle a complex domestic violence case, such as the one involving Davis.

Schneider and Galligan also reiterated that several employees at LSU, including employees in the athletic department, were getting mixed messages about how they should handle sexual misconduct allegations and incidents. They were going through training that told them to report such issues to the Title IX office, but may have also been told to keep such issues within their departments, Schneider said.

Schneider specifically said the handling of the Miles situation, in which athletic officials were told to keep complaints about him to themselves, likely resulted in some confusion at the athletic department. He said LSU athletics might have avoided later problems — such as those with Guice and Davis — if the Miles situation hadn’t been handled so poorly. The Miles case created a culture that wasn’t helpful for combating sexual misconduct, he said.

Still, LSU Student Government President Stone Cox said he didn’t think the student body would be satisfied with month-long suspensions for Ausberry and Segar. He said many students on campus thought the punishment should be more severe.

Schneider and Galligan implied that they may be limited because LSU has never made the consequences for not reporting sexual misconduct clear to employees.

“We don’t have guidelines anywhere as to what appropriate discipline is in these cases, and that’s a problem,” Galligan said. 

 

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator and producer of the Louisiana Illuminator podcast. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press. Julie covered state government and politics for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune for six years. She’s also covered government and politics in Missouri, Virginia and Washington D.C. Julie is a proud D.C. native and Washington Capitals hockey fan. She and her partner, Jed, live in Baton Rouge. She has two stepchildren, Quinn and Steven.

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