Edwards defends suspensions for LSU athletics officials, says he should have appointed more women to LSU’s board

Gov. John Bel Edwards
Gov. John Bel Edwards (Photo by Wesley Muller)

As growing numbers of Louisianians complain that LSU’s sexual misconduct makes plain the absence of women in leadership positions, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday, “Looking at it today, I wish I had” appointed more women to the LSU Board of Supervisors. 

“That board does not represent the gender diversity that it should,” Edwards said in response to a reporter’s question at an afternoon press conference. “Especially in light of what’s been transpiring over the last few weeks.” 

The Louisiana governor appoints 15 of the 16 members of LSU’s board, and, thus, has a tremendous amount of power and influence over it.  The one remaining board seat is filled by a student. According to the Board of Supervisors website, only one of the appointed members currently serving, Ronald Anderson of Baton Rouge, was appointed to the board before Edwards took office. Anderson’s term technically expired June 20, 2020, but he continues to serve.

“Everybody that I appointed to the board are really good public servants and they do a fine job,” Edwards said. He added that when appointing the Board of Supervisors, he was prioritizing racial diversity, but didn’t give the same attention to gender diversity.

Last week, the Louisiana Senate Select Committee on Women and Children — which held a hearing on higher education sexual misconduct  Wednesday — then issued a formal statement at the end of the meeting that lasted nearly 10 hours. The committee, made up of mostly women, asked LSU to consider more severe punishments for Executive Deputy Athletic Director Verge Ausberry and Senior Associate Athletic Director Miriam Segar.

Ausberry did nothing when football player Drake Davis sent him a text that he’d hit his girlfriend, and Segar didn’t promptly report sexual assault allegations made against former star running back Derrius Guice. Galligan suspended Ausberry for four weeks and Segar for three.

“From the minimal disciplinary actions taken with regard to the employees held responsible for the universitys’ failure to provide protection and remedies for the victims of sexual abuse, the committee can only conclude that the university remains tone deaf not only to these victims, but to all of the women of Louisiana who demand that the wrong be set right,” the committee on women and children said in its statement.

Edwards also said he “won’t take issue” with Interim LSU President Tom Galligan’s decision not to fire two athletics administrators who did nothing when they learned of football players’ alleged crimes against women.

“Reasonable people can disagree and some think it should’ve been harsher, some think it should’ve been less harsh,” Edwards said.

On March 5, the Husch Blackwell law firm released a 150-page report that concluded that LSU hadn’t spent enough money or made enough of an effort to combat sexual misconduct and violence on its campus in Baton Rouge.  The report says the university had been warned several times over the years that it needed to devote more resources to that cause.

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.

“When you read the report, you cannot help but conclude that people needed to be fired,” Edwards said, “But over the passage of time, the people that most obviously needed to be fired are no longer there.”

The University of Kansas fired Les Miles last week.  The Husch Blackwell report detailed how LSU officials discussed keeping the former LSU Football coach away from young women who worked in LSU’s Athletics Department because he had behaved inappropriately with them.  On Wednesday, the Oregon State University Board of Trustees responded to the same report by putting that university’s president F. King Alexander on probation.  Alexander served as president at LSU from 2013 to 2019.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s office has released a statement saying she expects Oregon State’s Board of Trustees to “take decisive action to remove him.”