New LSU President William Tate addresses the media on his first day on the job. (JC Canicosa/Louisiana Illuminator)
On his first day on the job, new LSU President William Tate spoke Tuesday about the sexual misconduct scandal that has led to lawsuits against the university and a tarnished image. Tate, who said he wants the university to handle Title IX cases “from a trauma-informed perspective,” promised to look at the policies President Tom Galligan had put in place, but he said would likely have a different approach than Galligan, the dean of LSU’s law school. “He’s a lawyer, I’m a public health guy,” Tate said. “So we’re gonna look at the problems in a different way.”
Tate, who comes to LSU from the University of South Carolina where he served as professor and provost for academic affairs, said LSU needs to make sure that people who report sexual assault or harrassment to the school “are treated in a way that makes sure they’re taken cared of from a psychological perspective.” He said “a lot of the time, individuals (who report Title IX cases) have to prove something has gone wrong, and then we treat them like they’re the ones with the problem.”
“Trust is a process that happens over time, and so, we’re going to just have to be better on a consistent basis,” Tate said. “Consistency builds trust.”
In May, months after USA Today reported that the university had ignored allegations that football players and fraternity members had assaulted women, Husch Blackwell law firm released a 150-page investigative report that concluded that LSU hadn’t made enough of an effort to combat sexual misconduct and violence on its Baton Rouge campus. The law firm, which had been hired by the LSU Board of Supervisors, concluded that the university 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.
Among other criticisms, Hush Blackwell reported that LSU had a single Title IX coordinator and one case manager for 50,000 students. Now, LSU is in the process of fully staffing its Office of Civil Rights & Title IX with 14 members.
Tate said he wants LSU “to be an open book” and provide any necessary information regarding the university’s ongoing lawsuits. One of the lawsuits was filed by a former employee who alleged she was harassed by LSU Athletics officials after she complained about racist and sexist behavior in the department. The other was filed by current and former LSU students who allege university officials “repeatedly engaged in discriminatory, retaliatory, and other unlawful actions” when students tried to report rape, domestic violence and other problems on campus.
“My thinking about it is ‘OK, there’s a suit now. We’re going to find out the truth,’” Tate said. “I want to know what happened and I want to know what we need to do to get better.”
Former LSU football coach Les Miles was fired by the University of Kansas. F. King Alexander, who served as LSU president between 2013 and 2019 when a number of the allegations of sexual misconduct and violence occurred, resigned as Oregon State University after that school’s board of trustees said there was no way Alexander could regain the trust of the OSU community.
No one at LSU was fired. Verge Ausberry and Miriam Segar, two LSU athletics administrators who did nothing when they learned of several allegations of violence and misconduct against football players, were suspended.
The Louisiana Legislature, in the session that ended last month, passed several laws that protect sexual assault victims on Louisiana colleges and universities — including legislation that mandates the termination of higher ed employees who don’t report Title IX violations.
Tate said LSU will rebuild that trust by being transparent and “building processes that people trust.”
“There are people who have been traumatized,” he said. “That’s something we’re gonna have to live with, but we’ve got to do right by those people by being better.”
In addition to addressing the sexual misconduct scandal, Tate also talked about the university’s low vaccination rate and the new rules allowing college athletes to profit from the use of their name, image and likeness.
The new president also talked about LSU’s current vaccination rates and the university’s new name, image and likeness policies.
‘Get your vaccination’
According to LSU spokesperson Ernie Ballard, only 26% of LSU’s students have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Let’s be clear about it,” Tate said in a response to a question about the vaccination rate, “that number isn’t good… We’ve got to get the numbers higher.”
“We need the students who are coming back to get vaccinated,” Tate said. “This is a scientific matter.”
He said he hopes student vaccination rates will be much higher by the fall “and will continue to grow.”
“Literally, we’re bringing a small city back to this geospatial region and that small city is a vector,” he said.
Around 9,345 students and 4,282 employees have received the vaccine, according to the LSU COVID-19 dashboard. The LSU Board of Supervisors also voted to request the Louisiana Department of Health add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required immunizations students need to attend Louisiana public colleges and universities, but the health department has not done so.
“I can’t wait to see you in the fall. Get your vaccination, come and realize your dreams here at LSU,” Tate said when asked if he had anything he wanted to say to students.
Tate said he’s a fan of the LSU athletes profiting off endorsements
Following a new Louisiana law and a policy change announced by the NCAA, multiple LSU athletes have already entered into sponsorship deals, Tate said he’s “a big believer that (allowing college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness) was probably the right way to go.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards signed Act 479 — which allows college athletes in Louisiana to receive “compensation for the use of the athlete’s name, image, or likeness” while maintaining their amateur status — into law last week.
“It’s very exciting that young people who invest and are disciplined about their sports can now have an opportunity to make some revenue, so they can take care of themselves and hopefully finish their degrees,” Tate said.
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