Gov. Edwards says he will support a bill that mandates college officials report sexual assault

Asks legislature to ‘get it to my desk’

LSU Student Union
(Photo by Julie O'Donoghue)

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday that he’s been in conversation with several groups of legislators about the sexual misconduct scandal at LSU and that he expects to see a bill during the coming legislative session that “addresses mandatory reporting on higher education campuses, identifies who the mandatory reporters are and imposes on them that obligation to report.”

Edwards indicated his willingness to sign such legislation at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

In a press conference last week, Edwards said last week he didn’t object to Interim LSU President Tom Galligan’s decision to suspend — and not to fire — Verge Ausberry and Miriam Segar, two athletics administrators who did nothing when they learned of football players’ alleged crimes against women.

But many lawmakers have expressed concern at what they have called lenient discipline for Ausberry and Segar, and have warned that LSU officials will have a hard time convincing lawmakers to be generous to LSU during budget negotiations if the university doesn’t show that it takes crime against women seriously.

The Louisiana Senate Select Committee on Women and Children held a 10-hour meeting March 10, and released a statement calling it “inexcusable and inexplicable” that the students who were harassed or assaulted weren’t properly supported.

“From the minimal disciplinary actions taken with regard to the employees held responsible for the universities’ 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.”

State Sen. Regina Barrow, (D-Baton Rouge), chairwoman of the committee, has scheduled a second committee hearing Friday to discuss the LSU scandal and that she expects LSU officials and members of the LSU Board of Supervisors to be present. 

When she announced the meeting last week, Barrow said if LSU 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.

In expressing his support for such a law Wednesday, Edwards said, “Absent some very compelling reasons — any failure to discharge that obligation (to report Title IX violations) would result in termination. We’ll be asking the Legislature to move that bill forward and to get it to my desk.”

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.

The LSU scandal has had a ripple effect across the country, but no one who lost a job was still at LSU. Former LSU Football Coach Les Miles was fired by the University of Kansas.  KU also fired the athletic director who hired Miles. F. King Alexander, who served as LSU president between 2013 and 2019 resigned as Oregon State University president over the weekend.  The LSU scandal happened on his watch, and the university’s board of trustees said there was no way Alexander could regain the trust of the OSU community.

LSU hasn’t fired anyone, and Edwards isn’t alone in expressing support for Galligan’s decision not to fire Ausberry and Segar.  LSU Athletics Director Scott Woodward said he supports Galligan’s decision.  LSU Board of Supervisors Chair Robert S. Dampf has described criticism of Ausberry and Segar as “scape-goating) and U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy said to reporters Tuesday, “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.” He said “responsibility needs to rise to the top and not settle to the bottom.”