LSU releases action plan to improve response to sexual misconduct allegations

LSU releases action plan to improve response to sexual misconduct allegations
A photo of the Memorial Tower on LSU's campus in Baton Rouge, La. (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - LSU Interim President Tom Galligan has released an outline of the action plan the university will take to improve how it responds to allegations of sexual and domestic assault following a scathing report that said LSU mishandled cases of sexual violence on its campus and violated Title IX policies for years.

“When we received the Husch Blackwell report, we put together an action plan that, combined with steps we had already taken, would immediately improve the way LSU responds to sexual and domestic assault allegations – and ultimately make our community a safer place for everyone,” Galligan announced Wednesday, March 17. “We know that we have much work to do, and that it will take time to make lasting cultural changes, but we can start now to build a more solid foundation from the ground up.”

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Husch Blackwell, a third-party law firm, was hired by LSU in 2020 to review its Title IX policies following several damning USA Today reports the same year.

LSU Title IX Report
Victims respond to report on sexual violence at LSU

The law firm released its report on March 5 which said the university did not have proper procedures and training for reporting of sexual assault allegations on campus.

Galligan says LSU’s action plan closely follows the recommendations made by Husch Blackwell.

The following is the action plan for LSU to improve its Title IX compliance:

Appropriately staff the Title IX office.

We will expand the Title IX Office with administrative support, a case manager and additional investigators. The Title IX Coordinator position at LSU will be a full-time position whose sole responsibility is to coordinate compliance with Title IX, and we will continue to investigate additional staffing needs in associated areas.

Designate a Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Prevention and Training.

Our robust partnership with Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response (STAR), a nonprofit organization committed to preventing and responding to sexual violence, will initially be the way we implement this recommendation.

Designate a Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Support and Resources.

We will work with the Lighthouse Program, which provides free and confidential interpersonal violence prevention, support and advocacy to the LSU campus community, to serve in this capacity in the short-term.

Change the reporting line for the Title IX Coordinator.

The Title IX Office has been moved out of the Office of General Counsel and into the new Office of Civil Rights and Title IX, which will be led by a new Vice President who will report to the president. Right now, the office will operate under the direction of Interim Vice President Jane Cassidy, while we undertake a national search to find a permanent leader for the unit.

Implement Quarterly and Annual Reporting.

On a quarterly basis, our Title IX office will prepare a report to the President with an update on staffing, training and the number and status of current cases. Additionally, the office will prepare an annual report to be shared with the entire campus community.

Improve recordkeeping.

Under the direction of Interim Vice President of Civil Rights & Title IX Jane Cassidy, we will implement appropriate methods of record-keeping to ensure that survivors are protected while respondents are appropriately monitored. We will also ensure that records are logged in a manner that allows us to identify trends or developments that will allow for timely intervention.

Enhance training for Athletics.

We will continue to ensure clarity of reporting roles and responsibilities through targeted training. The department has improved its training, resources and access to nationally-recognized relationship and cultural experts, and these efforts will be more closely coordinated with our Title IX office in the future.

Clarify mandatory reporting obligations.

At the start of the Husch Blackwell review, we issued clarifying memos informing everyone in the LSU community, with the exception of confidential advisors, of their obligation to report any knowledge of a potential Title IX violation to the Title IX office. We will continue to take steps, including through an aggressive communications campaign, to ensure that every employee on our campus understands their responsibilities.

Improve information flow from LSUPD.

We have already issued a directive to the LSU Police Department to ensure the timely sharing of information, including the identity of survivors of domestic and sexual assault, with the Title IX office so that survivors and their families have immediate access to all support services the university has to offer, but we will continue to work with LSUPD to ensure that the process is as seamless as possible for survivors.

Provide specialized training to Title IX Personnel.

STAR will provide training on the unique issues raised by interpersonal violence cases, and we are exploring additional sources of executive-level training for the professionals tasked with handling these critically sensitive situations.

Accept accountability.

We are establishing a culture of awareness and accountability across our campus. We will establish clear deadlines for implementing these actions and commit to transparency so the public can monitor progress and hold us accountable for honoring our commitments. We will also hold those who do not honor their reporting responsibilities accountable. Where the rules are clear, so are the sanctions, and any LSU employee who fails to report knowledge of a sexual assault from now on will result in actions up to and including termination.

Bring a special focus to cases involving student athletes.

With an ultimate goal of bringing the sexual assault incidence rate among athletes down, implement trainings such as a robust bystander intervention program, and provide resources and support to reporters coupled with an appropriate tone at the top within the Athletics department.

Develop alternative resolution options and restorative justice.

The Office of Civil Rights and Title IX will spearhead an effort to develop as robust an offering of alternatives to investigation/adjudication as possible.

Establish timelines for resolutions.

While many sexual and domestic assault cases can be complex, we will establish reasonable timelines that can be adopted as policy. The Office of Civil Rights and Title IX will work through this in conjunction with Student Advocacy and Accountability.

Consider appropriate sanctions.

Initiate a task force of employee and student leaders to assess whether the university’s current approach to sanctions is in line with peer institutions and consistent with LSU values.

Create a centralized website to increase understanding and simplify process.

Today, we will launch a new and centralized website focused on helping survivors and mandatory reporters navigate the process of reporting, which is meant to be more intuitive and straightforward.

Regularly measure climate and effectiveness.

STAR will develop and deploy appropriate climate measurement tools, and they will also provide evaluations of any existing and future efforts to ensure that they are effectively reaching the goals set.

Apply the rules to everyone.

Accountability is crucial to rebuilding trust with our community. That means the rules must be consistently communicated to employees across the campus and sanctions must similarly be deployed consistently. Only then will the culture truly have changed.

Again, we will continue to update you regularly as we engage in the long road toward improvement together. As Jane gets acclimated to her new role, she will no doubt also have new initiatives and improvements she will recommend, and we will keep you apprised of those as well.

In the immediate future, we will add a section to the Title IX Review site to publicly share updates on progress toward our initiatives. Also, we commit to bringing Husch Blackwell back in a few months to evaluate our progress and share that publicly with our community.

I hope that you will remain engaged in this process and follow us on this journey, holding us accountable every step of the way.

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