The Louisiana Senate Select Committee on Women and Children will hold a second hearing on higher education sexual misconduct March 26 “where we will be asking several different entities to come — including the (LSU) Board of Supervisors, the athletic directors, the foundation board as well as Title IX (officers)” to hear “what their plans are in implementing changes to ensure that this never happens again,” State Sen. Regina Barrow, (D-Baton Rouge), chairwoman of the committee, said Friday afternoon at a press conference on the steps of the Louisiana State Capitol. Six of the committee’s seven members were present at the press conference.
The committee held a 10-hour meeting March 10 after the law firm Husch Blackwell released a 150-page report that concluded that LSU hadn’t made enough of an effort to combat sexual misconduct and violence on its campus in Baton Rouge, hadn’t sufficiently staffed the Title IX office, which handles campus cases of sexual misconduct and violence, and had no clear policies in place about when employees are required to report sexual violence and sexual misconduct. The law firm’s report followed a series of stories by USA Today which focused on several cases involving the athletics department or fraternity brothers in which LSU mishandled sexual misconduct on campus.
“We want the survivors to know that we have heard them loudly and clearly, and we do not intend to turn a deaf ear on the issues,” Barrow said. “And we will take the necessary actions.”
The Husch Blackwell report highlights at least 21 times 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.
Barrow said if LSU board or staff members don’t show up March 26, they are “definitely going to have some level of repercussions when they come before committees such as finance, appropriations and education.” Louisiana lawmakers control how much money LSU receives from the state budget.
“We are hoping that they come as a result of just a request,” Barrow said. “But we do have the power to subpoena them to come.”
On Wednesday, the Oregon State University Board of Trustees responded to the law firm’s report by putting on probation OSU president F. King Alexander, who served as LSU president from 2013 to 2019.
After that meeting, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said if a review the board has launched “confirms that President Alexander did not uphold his ethical and legal responsibilities to protect the safety of the students at LSU, I expect the board to take decisive action to remove him.”
Barrow said she doesn’t know if Alexander will show up to the committee’s March 26 hearing, but, she said, “It would be very important to hear from him.”
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 and required both to attend sexual assault training.
Speaking of what she considers that insufficient punishment, Barrow said Friday, “The culture that has existed — not just at LSU, but in many environments — as it relates to how women should be treated… is one that we just will not stand for,” Barrow said. “Nor will we allow it to continue.”
Barrow said if the university does not implement a policy to automatically fire any official or staff member that doesn’t follow the policies and procedures related to reporting sexual assault, the committee will push legislation to make such a policy into law.
Beth Mizell, (R-Franklinton) a member of the Select Committee on Women and Children, said but what matters more than legislation and procedures is that leadership actually makes sure officials and staff members are following through on those procedures related to reporting sexual assault.
“How many opportunities were there for somebody to stop the wrongdoing and shine a light on what was happening?” Mizell asked. “It never happened, and I think that was the disappointment.”