Senator Cassidy: LSU should have considered firing admins but fault rises ‘to the top’

Though lower-ranked admins shouldn’t ‘take the fall’ for top brass

By: - March 23, 2021 8:43 pm
LSU should have considered firing

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy delivers remarks at a press conference for the White House Coronavirus Task Force during their visit to LSU’s Tiger Stadium on July 14, 2020. (Photo by Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator).

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, responded to questions about LSU’s sexual misconduct scandal during his weekly press conference call Tuesday, saying the university needs to “root out any culture that would tolerate sexual harassment” and should have considered firing those who had the responsibility and authority to act but failed to do so.

Asked if the LSU Board of Supervisors should have fired any administrators identified in the Husch-Blackwell report, Cassidy said terminations should have been considered. The report details a law firm’s independent investigation to allegations in a USA Today article that LSU officials turned a blind eye when athletes and coaches were accused of sexually assaulting and harassing students. 

“If there was somebody with the responsibility who did not act on that responsibility and they were in a position of authority to actually execute, then firing would be among the things we should consider to punish those who allowed the conditions to stand,” he said.

The senator explained that the school should have considered firing administrators in accordance with their level of individual responsibility and that “we have to wait and see what LSU finally does.”

“Arguably, the most responsible is the person who executed the act and the second most responsible is the one who knew of it and failed to act with an appropriate punishment,” Cassidy said. “Now these two folks are clearly bearing that penalty. What happens beneath that depends upon the relative role that that individual had in executing and what instructions they were receiving.”

Cassidy was referring to former LSU football Coach Les Miles and former LSU President F. King Alexander. After leaving LSU in 2019, Alexander served as president of Oregon State University until he resigned Sunday due to the scandal detailed in the 150-page Husch-Blackwell report. His departure was preceded by Miles’ termination as football coach for the University of Kansas on March 8, shortly after the report was released. Miles was let go by LSU early in the 2016 season for unrelated reasons and was out of coaching until picked up by Kansas in 2018. The report details allegations of his misconduct in Baton Rouge dating back to 2009.

Responding to what he called a question of many “theoreticals,” Cassidy said: “As I’ve understood it, it was reported to Joe Alleva, who reported it to King Alexander, and there was no action taken place. King Alexander is now suffering the penalty for that. The person who perpetrated it, Les Miles, has been fired from his job. Now, if they were both at the university, we could fire them both and apparently that would satisfy the condition of your theoretical, but because they’ve moved on and there’s no opportunity to fire somebody, there’s no way to satisfy the condition of your theoretical. That’s why I don’t like to talk about theoreticals.”

When asked if athletics administrators Verge Ausberry and Miriam Singer, specifically, should have been fired, Cassidy said: “If you have two individuals who are here responding to instructions from folks up there, it is a classic situation in which you make the people who are lowest in the command chain take the fall for the people who are the highest. I don’t yet know the entirety of their roles and how much they were taking orders, but I do think responsibility needs to rise to the top and not settle to the bottom.”

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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the following 22 years since then, he has worked as a journalist for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. Much of his work has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and watchdog coverage of municipal and state government. He has received several honors and recognitions, including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus, a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper, and an adjunct English teacher at Baton Rouge Community College. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his teenage son and his wife, who is also a journalist.

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