Sen. Barrow questions LSU officials about reform measures at the Sept. 28 Senate Select Committee on Women and Children. (Photo by Rachel Mipro/Louisiana Illuminator)
After months of working on recommendations given by the Husch Blackwell reports and lawmakers, LSU still doesn’t have a a full, permanent staff in the office that handles sexual assault allegations and lawmakers also voiced concerns about the accessibility of LSU’s online sexual assault resources at a Tuesday meeting.
Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, asked LSU officials about previous glitches in the LSU website for reporting cases of sexual assault and violence, questioning how people new to campus could navigate the site.
“I find it not user friendly,” Mizell said. “It’s almost where you have to have the secret code to get the remedy to the problem.”
In the past, advocates have raised concerns about the content of the site. Inaccurate information on restraining orders was posted for almost six weeks, despite advocacy groups asking for changes to this information. There were also problems with broken links and a lack of resources for sexual assault survivors seeking help.
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Jane Cassidy, interim vice president for Civil Rights & Title IX, said the school has addressed these issues. She blamed previous problems on a lack of staffing. “It was a time when we did not have the flow we have now,” she said.
The Office of Civil Rights and Title IX has eight staff members, up from the two members previously staffing the office, but much less than previous plans. Last April, LSU leaders said they planned on hiring 14 to 18 people for the office, which investigates and handles sexual misconduct.
Lawmakers also brought up another issue: the lack of a signed sexual assault agreement between the university and local police. The agreement is meant to ease the sharing of information about sexual assault crimes among law enforcement groups.
LSU officials said they worked with other school systems in the area to send a memorandum of understanding to the Baton Rouge Police Department a few weeks ago. This agreement hasn’t been signed yet, though it has been required by law for years.
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LSU President William Tate said the university is taking steps to make the campus safer for everyone, saying that he has realized the need for university officials to be “compliant and empathetic.”
Officials from the Louisiana Community and Technical College System say they are also on track with implementing new policies, with 23 Title IX coordinators across 12 colleges.
At the University of Louisiana System, officials say they have been meeting on a biweekly basis to address sexual misconduct policy implementation. While all UL campuses have signed agreements with local law enforcement, UL System President Jim Henderson said they are trying to expand the language of these memorandums.
Henderson said UL officials are eager to implement new programs addressing sexual assault.
Around 15,000 people in the UL system have undergone the mandated training, with another 17,000 people scheduled for training in the next few weeks.
“There’s not more important work in front of us,” Henderson said.
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