21 ways LSU hid or suppressed information about sexual misconduct

An independent review from a law firm found multiple faults in LSU’s approach to sexual assault

By: - March 10, 2021 7:01 am
Les Miles

Head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers celebrates after defeating the Texas A&M Aggies 19-7 at Tiger Stadium on November 28, 2015, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

LSU officials have concealed, covered up and made it difficult to collect information about sexual misconduct and violence against women at its flagship campus in Baton Rouge at least 21 times since the beginning of 2013.

Following a damning article from USA TODAY about sexual assault at LSU, the university hired a law firm to review the school’s approach to sexual misconduct in November. LSU released the Husch Blackwell law firm’s report — 150 pages long — Friday. 

The report highlights instances when LSU officials purposefully hid information about sexual misconduct — or created a system which made it difficult for the university to adequately track it. This happened in multiple cases over several years and involved officials from the president’s office to the athletics department. 

LSU interim president Tom Galligan publicly apologized Friday for the way LSU has approached sexual harassment and assault. Galligan pledged to reorganize LSU’s Title IX office, which handles sexual misconduct, and said the school would clarify sexual misconduct policies and expectations. Husch Blackwell suggested in its report that the university take these steps.

But up until last week, LSU was still fighting the release of information about alleged sexual misconduct — specifically allegations against former football coach Les Miles.

Here’s a list of the ways LSU has kept sexual misconduct allegations out of the public eye — or at least hard to find — over the last eight years. 

A newspaper had to sue LSU for a sexual misconduct report on Miles

LSU initially refused to release records to USA TODAY journalists about Miles’ alleged sexual misconduct involving student workers. The national newspaper eventually had to sue the university in January in an attempt to make the records public. When USA TODAY filed its lawsuit, most of the public wasn’t aware that Miles had been investigated for sexual misconduct.

LSU eventually released a redacted copy of an investigative report into Miles’ behavior last week, but only after a Baton Rouge judge indicated he was likely to rule in favor of it becoming public anyway. Until then, LSU’s attorneys were arguing it should remain out of the public eye.

That report reveals that a female student worker had accused Miles of trying to kiss her; that he had requested female student workers in the athletic department be attractive and blond; and that he used a private cell phone to message female student workers. 

LSU didn’t fire football coach Les Miles for sexual harassment 

Back in 2013, LSU’s then-Athletic Director Joe Alleva pushed for Miles to be fired because of his inappropriate behavior toward female student workers. Had Miles been fired then, the allegations about inappropriate behavior against student workers may have come out with it. 

Alleva argued that the allegations against Miles should be made public, according to an email copied in the Husch Blackwell report.

“I want us to think about which scenario is worse for LSU. Explaining why we let him go or why we let him stay,” Alleva wrote to F. King Alexander, president of the university at the time.

“[I]n this case I believe he is guilty of insubordination, inappropriate behavior, putting the university, athletic department and football program at great risk. … The court of public opinion would favor us.”

LSU decided not to fire Miles at that point, but employees within the athletics department said they continued to be harassed. Witnesses told Husch Blackwell that Miles’ behavior grew worse over time.

“It kind of makes me want to vomit, it was kind of that every year, it got a little worse and a little worse and for a while, after a while it almost became normal that we can’t hire anybody that’s fat and ugly,” another witness told the law firm about Miles’ attitude toward female workers.

LSU Athletics used a private law firm — not campus staff — to investigate Miles 

LSU didn’t report sexual misconduct against Miles to the university’s Title IX office, which is supposed to investigate such complaints. Instead, it hired Taylor Porter, a law firm, to conduct an investigation into his behavior.

This meant far fewer people at the university were aware Miles was being investigated — and the allegations made against him were not counted in state and federal reports about sexual misconduct on LSU’s campus. 

Kansas Jayhawks part ways with football coach Les Miles amid allegations of misconduct at LSU

Of the sexual harassment complaints made against Miles, Husch Blackwell said, “Notably, there are no records of these reports of sex discrimination in the University’s files and there is no record of these reports ever being investigated.”

LSU purposefully kept the sexual misconduct investigation into Miles hidden 

LSU agreed to keep all documents regarding the sexual misconduct allegations against Miles in the hands of attorneys — not university officials — to ensure that they would not have to be produced in response to a public records request. This likely helped keep sexual harassment allegations against Miles out of sight for years.

“Though in the face of a public records request we believe LSU could successfully take the position that such a document is protected from production by the privacy rights of the individuals involved, there is no guarantee that such a document might not have to be produced either as a result of a public records request or other legal proceeding,” wrote a Taylor Porter attorney of a document related to Miles’ sexual misconduct investigation.

“In order to minimize the possibility of this, we suggest the written directive sent to [Miles] (as described above) be sent by our law firm to the law firm representing [Miles],” the attorneys said.  

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’s Athletics Department kept sexual misconduct allegations in-house

When Miles wasn’t fired, Alleva made moves to keep all allegations of sexual misconduct concerning athletes and athletics staff within the department, though federal law requires them to be reported to the campus-wide Title IX office. That meant that some allegations were never reported to the Title IX office — or any authority outside of the athletic department.

“None of these myriad of Athletics-related reporting policies, forms, acknowledgements even mention the University’s Title IX coordinator, much less require Athletics employees to report sex-based misconduct to the University’s Title IX coordinator,” said Husch Blackwell in the report.

“This is alarming in its own right, but especially because, according to (athletics administrator Miriam) Segar, Athletics began issuing these policies and procedures largely in response to incidents involving two Athletics student-workers and former head football coach Les Miles.” 

Athletics officials may have been hostile to a colleague concerned about sexual harassment

Sharon Lewis, who is the associate athletics director for football recruiting and alumni relations, apparently raised several concerns about Miles’ alleged harassment of student workers and his desire to only hire students who he found attractive.

Lewis said her complaints to athletics officials about Miles were ignored and that after she reported Miles’ behavior, many members of the athletics department became “hostile toward her.” She eventually had a mental breakdown as a result of the treatment. That could have discouraged other athletics officials from coming forward with concerns about sexual misconduct.

“That alleged retaliation was reported by Lewis but never investigated by the leadership of the University,” Husch Blackwell reported.

Instead, Lewis was later disciplined for not reporting sexual misconduct or domestic violence in a different case that occurred years later. Husch Blackwell found it odd that only Lewis was punished for lack of reporting about misconduct, when several other athletics officials had failed to do the same on different occasions. 

LSU failed to investigate athletics officials accused of not reporting sexual misconduct 

Lewis eventually complained to university authorities that two administrators in athletics, Verge Ausberry and Miriam Segar, were not reporting all sexual misconduct allegations to the Title IX office as required.

The university never looked into her complaints, though the Husch Blackwell report released last Friday confirmed that Segar and Ausberry both failed to report sexual misconduct and domestic violence allegations to the proper authorities. As a result, Ausberry and Segar have been placed on three and four week suspensions by LSU interim President Tom Galligan. 

Lewis also filed a Title IX complaint against Ausberry on behalf of herself. In it, she said there are “several witnesses who have seen Ausberry yell and scream at Lewis, call her profanities, and do other acts of harassment.” Husch Blackwell said the university never investigated this complaint.

Husch Blackwell also said Lewis should not have been disciplined for not reporting sexual misconduct allegations — when so many other athletics officials weren’t doing so.

“It was established that Sharon was required to report up all violations and it was established that she did report the specific violation up to Miriam Segar and Verge Ausberry. It was established that Sharon was not to report Title IX violations herself,  but to report them to Miriam and Verge so how in the world was she found to have not reported a Title IX violation. It makes no sense. And during that investigation why were Miriam and Verge found not to have reported the violation that she and the alleged victim reported to Verge,” wrote Husch Blackwell. 

An athletics official didn’t report a football player who confessed to hitting a woman

Ausberry went on to fail to report an incident of domestic violence involving a football player — likely in violation of federal law. He did not tell the Title IX office when former LSU football player Drake Davis confessed Davis had hit former tennis player Jade Lewis in a text to Ausberry. Davis and Lewis were in a sexual relationship at the time Davis hit her.

Ausberry told Husch Blackwell that he didn’t report Davis’ confession of hitting a woman because Davis retracted his confession in a follow up phone call. Ausberry also said he wasn’t sure he had to report the incident because Lewis, the victim, was not enrolled at LSU at the time. Husch Blackwell said that Ausberry’s reasoning for not reporting the incident was “not credible.”

“A prudent employee and administrator would have taken steps to report this information to appropriate authorities to at least conduct a welfare check given the seriousness of the information relayed in text messages,” Husch Blackwell wrote.

LSU ignored concerns raised by the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s office 

Several months later, East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore shared Ausberry’s text exchange with Davis with former LSU President King Alexander and former LSU General Counsel Tom Skinner after Davis had been arrested and charged with domestic violence.

Moore indicated LSU might want to look into potential Title IX violations, which would have included Ausberry not reporting Davis’ confession of hitting Lewis. Alexander, Skinner and other LSU officials seem to have ignored this suggestion.

“Despite being provided this information, no Title IX investigation regarding Ausberry’s failure to report Davis’ admission of dating violence against Jade Lewis was immediately initiated by General Counsel, who oversaw the Title IX office,” said Husch Blackwell.

Instead, five months later, LSU hired a law firm, Morgan Lewis, to look into how Davis’ domestic violence case was handled.

Drake Davis #14 of the LSU Tigers catches the ball for a touchdown during the second half of a game against the Syracuse Orange at Tiger Stadium on September 23, 2017, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

LSU didn’t suspend a football player for hitting a female athlete

Eventually, Davis admitted to the Title IX office that he had hit Lewis, but the Title IX office didn’t suspend Davis or take any action that would have affected his college football career. Instead, the Title IX office — in coordination with the athletics department — mandated that Davis attend counseling sessions, with a counselor that already worked in the athletics department.

The Title IX office and athletics officials didn’t track whether Davis showed up for these counseling appointments they required. He made one, but missed the next four sessions, according to Husch Blackwell. Several weeks later he would be arrested for attacking and strangling Lewis. He was eventually kicked out of LSU and found guilty of those charges.

LSU failed to tell Southern University a football player had been kicked out of school for abuse

After being kicked out of LSU, Davis transferred to Southern University. His transcript should have indicated that he had been expelled from LSU for matters related to violence, but LSU did not make the notation. So when Davis sent his transcript to Southern, it didn’t include this information, according to Husch Blackwell. 

A newspaper and sexual misconduct victim had to sue LSU for a police report

Its demand for the Miles’ documents wasn’t the only time USA TODAY had to sue LSU to get them to release information about sexual assault. The newspaper and a former LSU student who was a victim of sexual misconduct also sued the university last fall for a police report the student had made concerning former LSU football star Derrius Guice.

Samantha Brennan said that Guice took a nude photograph of her without her permission in 2016 and passed it around the athletics department, where she was employed. At the time, Brennan brought this issue to the LSU police department, but decided not to pursue charges against Guice. In 2020, she and USA TODAY asked for a mostly unredacted copy of the police report, which LSU refused to release to Brennan. When LSU refused to release it, USA TODAY and Brennan sued the university.

Eventually, LSU agreed to release a mostly unredacted copy of the police report, but only after the lawsuit had been filed against the school. A Baton Rouge judge also ruled against the university, saying they shouldn’t have withheld the records in the first place. 

LSU police weren’t always reporting sexual misconduct incidents to school officials

Also with regard to police reports, the LSU police department wasn’t sharing information about sexual misconduct and violence against women with the Title IX office unless victims agreed to sign a waiver saying the information could be shared.

This likely reduced the number of overall sexual misconduct and domestic violence incidents LSU has been tracking as occurring on campus. It also makes it hard to track whether certain students and LSU staff members are repeatedly being accused of sexual misconduct.

Husch Blackwell suggested the police department should start disclosing such cases to the Title IX office regardless of whether a victim signs a waiver permitting it to happen. The police department is also required to do so by a state law passed in 2015, which says the process for reporting sexual violence on campus needs to be “streamlined.”

Tiger Stadium
LSU’s Tiger Stadium (Photo by Julie O’Donoghue / Louisiana Illuminator)

Athletics official doesn’t include Derrius Guice’s name on a report about an alleged rape

When Segar reported an initial rape allegation made by a member of the LSU swim and dive team against Guice to the Title IX office, she left Guice’s name off the report because of a fear that it might become a public record.

Specifically, she said she didn’t “want to put [Guice’s name] in writing” because “I get a lot of public information requests.” She instead told the Title IX office that Guice was the accused during a phone call — so as to keep his name out of the written reports. 

This caused problems in the future when Guice was accused of rape and other misconduct — by Brennan and other women — later in this tenure at LSU. The Title IX office was unable to link subsequent allegations of sexual misconduct to this initial one to establish a pattern, Husch Blackwell reported. 

Athletics tells law firm — not LSU officials — about Guice harassing a grandmother

A 70 year-old woman who was working at Superdome said Guice sexually harassed her while he was at the arena watching high school football games. She said Guice told her he wanted to have sex with her, grabbed his crotch and made sexual gestures in front of a crowd of men.

She said she told him to stop, but he continued, according to the Husch Blackwell report. The woman then reached out to LSU Athletics about this incident — and was told that Guice was joking around and acted that way because of his difficult childhood, according to the report. She said she wanted him punished.

Segar at the Athletics Department was told about this incident, but never informed the Title IX office about it. Instead, Segar said the Athletics Department questioned Guice about the incident. Guice denied it happened. Another football player who was with Guice at the time denied it happened as well.

The Athletics Department also involved Taylor Porter, their law firm, for input about what to do about this allegation against Guice, though they should have used the Title IX office at LSU to do an investigation. That kept information about this incident out of university records.

LSU’s president’s office also doesn’t tell officials about Guice harassing a grandmother 

Segar said the office of the university president, then Alexander, was also “aware” of the allegations from the 70 year-old woman at the Superdome against Guice, but did not tell the Title IX office either. 

This meant that allegations of Guice sexually harassing or raping two different women had been brought to attention of LSU officials, but weren’t tracked by the authorities who oversee sexual misconduct cases on campus. Later, they could not be linked to other sexual misconduct allegations made against Guice, including separate allegations of rape. 

LSU did not prohibit a football player guilty of sexual misconduct from playing in games

An unnamed football player was found to have sexually harassed a female athlete, but he was not suspended — which might have drawn attention to his sexual harassment case. Instead, the Title IX office prohibited from holding a leadership position in a student organization or studying abroad, something he was unlikely to do as a football player anyway. His position on the football team was not affected at all by the sanction. He continued to play, according to Husch Blackwell.

LSU football players transfer schools after being accused of sexual misconduct 

Husch Blackwell detailed a handful of cases where football players facing rape and domestic violence allegations transferred to another university before they potentially faced consequences. Sometimes, this also caused the LSU Title IX office to close its investigation into the sexual assault and domestic violence allegations — meaning that these students were never found to be in violaton of the student code of conduct for the official record. 

Some academic leaders tried to impose a ‘gag order’ on sexual misconduct 

Husch Blackwell said they talked to students and faculty members who said the leaders of some academic departments also forbade people from reporting sexual misconduct to the Title IX office. The law firm didn’t mention the academic departments in question by name.

“We met with a group of former and current students and employees in one academic  department who reported that their department chair instructed all members of the department to communicate concerns or reports to the chair ‘and to no one else,’ implemented a ‘gag order’ in mandating that once reporting to the chair, the matter could not be discussed with anyone else, and retaliated against individuals who disregarded or questioned this mandate,” Husch Blackwell said. 

LSU didn’t require all employees to report sexual misconduct 

Husch Blackwell says the university lacks a clear policy which states that all employees are responsible for reporting sexual misconduct. Even if people were aware they were obligated to report such activity, LSU’s directives gave conflicting advice about where to report those incidents, according to the law firm.

This confusion could have led to underreporting of such incidents. 

 LSU employees haven’t faced consequences for not reporting sexual misconduct

LSU does not have rules around what happens to faculty members and other employees, such as Ausberry and Segar, who don’t report sexual misconduct allegations.

This means LSU workers haven’t necessarily faced consequences for failing to report sexual misconduct. Since there’s no incentive for doing so, employees might not have been as willing to take this step.

This isn’t true at other public universities. In Texas, Husch Blackwell noted, university employees face losing their jobs under state law if they don’t report sexual misconduct allegations to a school’s Title IX office.

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press.