LSU hires law firm to review policies after investigative report claims university mishandled sexual misconduct complaints against students, top athletes
(WAFB) - A new report by investigators at USA Today claims Louisiana State University officials mishandled sexual misconduct allegations against students, including several top athletes.
You can read the full report here that claims LSU failed to get the Title IX office or police involved when federal laws and school policies required it.
In August, USA Today published rape allegations against Derrius Guice by two women who say their claims were doubted, ignored, not properly investigated, and not reported to the proper authorities. The problem goes beyond the star running back, the report goes on to say, though another woman now alleges Guice took and distributed a nude photo of her without consent.
The article references three women who say they were assaulted by the same fraternity member who was not an athlete. The women allege the school ignored the third complaint and dragged its investigative feet, ultimately forcing one of the women to attend class with the man she says groped her.
“(The fraternity member) was a nobody and I had that much trouble,” one of the accusers referenced in the reports told WAFB. “I thought, instinctively, it must be so much harder if they’re important.”
“If you just keep wearing victims down, they’re eventually going to give up and I think that’s what they’re betting on,” she said. “Dragging it out like that just took an emotional toll. You have to keep meeting with investigators, keep meeting with administrators, keep telling your story, and sometimes you have to go straight from talking with investigators to your class. I’m constantly going into class crying, looking crazy in front of my classmates and they have no idea why."
The woman, who has graduated since the incident with the fraternity member, says she wants the university to clean house in its Title IX department.
“They use Title IX like HR. It’s not about protecting the students, it’s about protecting the school from liability,” she said. “It keeps pushing you to give up.”
LSU Head Football Coach Ed Orgeron read a prepared statement addressing the USA Today report at the beginning of his weekly news conference Monday, Nov. 16.
Watch Orgeron’s comments in the video below.
Here is the statement in text form:
“Before we start, I’d like to address the USA TODAY article that came out," said Orgeron. "First, I want to say that we need to support and protect victims of violence, sexual abuse of any kind. There’s no place in our society nor on this campus or on our football program for any behavior of this type. When accusations are made, we have a legal and moral obligation to report every allegation to the university’s Title IX office so due process can be implemented. I have in the past, and will continue to take appropriate action and comply with reporting protocols. I have confidence that the university is working to address our policies and processes when allegations arise. That is all I’m going to say at this time.”
RELATED STORY: Two women claim Derrius Guice raped them at LSU, report says
Newspaper investigators say at least seven LSU officials had knowledge of Drake Davis' violent relationship with his girlfriend, but “sat on the information for months, while Davis continued to assault and strangle her.”
Davis has been arrested multiple times for battery of a dating partner and domestic abuse and was kicked off the football team in 2018. He was expelled four months after his criminal conviction, 10 months after he’d already left the school.
At least nine LSU football players have been reported to police for sexual misconduct, including two who played vital roles in the 2020 national championship season, but officials have kept details of how LSU handled the claims under wraps, the report says.
Guice’s attorney has said he was never disciplined, and LSU attorney Johanna Posada confirmed in response to USA Today’s public records request that four other athletes were not disciplined, either. They include running back Tae Provens, linebacker Jacob Phillips, tight end Zach Sheffer, all accused of rape; and safety Grant Delpit, who was accused of recording a woman during sex without her knowledge and sharing the video with others. Provens was arrested; his case remains open, District Attorney Hillar Moore’s office told USA Today. The others have not been criminally charged.
Davon Godchaux and Ray Parker were both arrested and accused of dating violence. The school would not confirm or deny if they were disciplined.
Citing the privacy interests of those involved, school officials did not answer nearly four dozen questions that USA Today submitted Nov. 4 about their handling of specific allegations and Title IX cases more generally. USA Today’s request for interviews with 10 LSU coaches and administrators was denied.
In a statement, LSU told USA Today it does not tolerate sexual violence of any form.
“We are unwavering in our commitment to respond promptly to any reports of misconduct, to investigate these reports in a manner that is fair and equitable, to support victims of sexual assault, and to protect the privacy of our students according to the law,” the statement said. “Putting an end to sexual assault is an institutional priority, and we are constantly working to achieve that goal.”
In a separate statement, Orgeron said his football program “takes any allegation very seriously” and that he has followed Title IX reporting protocols.
USA Today also found three cases in which male non-student-athletes found responsible for sexual assault were allowed to stay on campus rather than being expelled or suspended.
In a fourth case, LSU deferred the suspension of a man who stalked and sexually harassed a fellow student, even after he’d pleaded no contest in court to telephonic harassment, the report says.
“The whole system is on the side of the accused," a woman told USA Today.
LSU Interim President Tom Galligan issued the following statement in response to the USA Today report late Monday:
"Today, a news article portrayed LSU as an institution that is indifferent to allegations of abuse and sexual violence among students. Specifically, the article points to a number of allegations of misconduct from 2016 to 2018 that were allegedly ignored, dismissed outright or mishandled by coaches and university officials.
I want to assure you that LSU takes every report of sexual assault or violence seriously. We investigate them thoroughly, support victims sensitively, and hold offenders accountable. However, we are not perfect, and we can, and will, do better. A single instance of abuse or sexual violence is one too many.
We empathize with the victims featured in the article, and for that matter, all victims of abuse or any form of violence. No one should ever have to deal with the pain inflicted by another human being or a process that feels less than empathetic. We at LSU are committed to preventing all acts of violence and creating a safe learning and working environment for all members of our community. And while I’m confident in our people and our processes, we won’t be satisfied until we are living up to our own expectations every time, all the time.
To help us improve, we have retained Husch Blackwell, a renowned law firm with deep expertise in higher education, to conduct an independent, comprehensive review of our Title IX policies and procedures. We anticipate that they will wrap up their review in the spring.
If you are a victim of abuse and did not report the incident, or you reported it and believe it was not handled properly by anyone at LSU, please call our Title IX office at 225-578-3918. Any information you are willing to share, no matter how long ago the incident took place, is important. You have my word that we will respond promptly to any report of misconduct and investigate it in a manner that is fair and equitable to everyone involved."
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