BATON ROUGE – Enraged Louisiana lawmakers and distraught surviving students toast Louisiana State University interim president Tom Galligan for nearly three hours on Wednesday about his decision not to fire the employees having contributed to the school’s systemic failure to address sexual misconduct for years.
Their questions and complaints came during a day-long hearing before the State Senate Special Committee on Women and Children regarding allegations and incidents of sexual misconduct at colleges and universities. of Louisiana.
Some have called LSU’s decision to suspend just two employees a “direct insult” and “slap” to the victims. Democratic state officials Aimee Adatto Freeman and Regina Ashford Barrow compared the LSU administration and sports department to an “organized crime ring” and “mafia” for keeping silent about sexual misconduct in school.
Galligan defended his decision, saying employees who did not report the allegations of sexual misconduct to the Title IX school office lacked clear direction at the time. He promised they would do the right thing in the future.
“They were placed in positions that were impossible for them,” said Galligan. “The confusion was absolutely widespread. When I looked at the training, the policies, it was not clear. The employees did not understand what their obligation was.
He said he felt “conflicted” about his decision, but also felt obligated to be “fair to everyone involved”.
Senator Karen Carter Peterson, a Democrat, suggested a resolution calling for tougher penalties for Deputy Sports Director Verge Ausberry and Senior Deputy Sports Director Miriam Segar, as well as anyone else who mishandled reports of misconduct.
Such a resolution could be on the table for a future hearing, as could a list of new bills and resolutions requiring increased scrutiny at Louisiana universities, Republican Senator Beth Mizell told USA TODAY. She said lawmakers also wanted to hold officials accountable for breaking existing rules.
In the meantime, the committee formally adopted a statement on Wednesday expressing “deep and profound disappointment and dismay” at LSU’s response to reports of sexual harassment by students. He also asked the university to reconsider the penalties imposed on employees found responsible for mismanaging these reports.
“To restore confidence, there must be consequences,” the statement said.
The criticism follows Galligan’s announcement on Friday that the university would not fire anyone because of the widespread mismanagement of sexual assault allegations. Instead, he said, he had suspended Ausberry and Miriam Segar without pay for 30 and 21 days, respectively. The two were named extensively in an independent inquiry into the school’s handling of sexual assault allegations led by law firm Husch Blackwell.
The report was released to the public on Friday and revealed a “serious institutional failure” created by campus leaders who never spent enough money, left investigative offices understaffed, and ultimately put students at risk by not acknowledging the experience of trauma victims, an investigation by an outside law firm found.
LSU hired Husch Blackwell in November to lead the investigation after report by USA TODAY revealed widespread problems.
Lawmakers and LSU students called to testify, including several who have shared their stories and identities publicly for the first time, said if LSU is to properly address the issues on its campus, it needs to clean up.
“The abuse and cover-ups are disgusting, and these people must be held accountable,” said Calise Richardson, a former student who reported dating violence by then-footballer Drake Davis, and whose The case was mismanaged by employees of the LSU sports department. “Am I not deserving of justice for the failure of LSU?” Do I have to be mistreated again just to get justice? “
Richardson and Jade Lewis, a former LSU tennis player, shared an emotional testimony of being physically assaulted by Davis while a student at LSU. Prior to Wednesday, they had only publicly detailed their stories to USA TODAY, which reported their accounts in November and December as part of its investigation into the school.
Davis later pleaded guilty to two assaults on Lewis; prosecutors dropped the other charges against him in exchange.
Some lawmakers held their faces in their palms, and others tilted their heads back in their chairs as they listened to students’ accounts of the horrific abuse.
Former students Samantha Brennan and Abby Owens have testified in person that they were victims of sexual assault and misconduct by former LSU football star Derrius Guice. Brennan went public with her story in a USA TODAY report in November, and Owens in August, although Owens, a former LSU tennis player, chose to remain anonymous at the time. Brennan criticized Husch Blackwell for omitting key details they gave investigators in his report, as did Richardson and Lewis.
Another student, Ricky Bryant, shared his story of sexual assault by a former LSU student. He said he didn’t report it because he knew LSU would have protected his attacker.
After hearing testimony from the survivors, lawmakers recalled Galligan to the stand and asked if he still felt “in conflict” after hearing the student’s stories. He was without engagement.
“I’m going to beg you to reconsider your decision,” Peterson told Galligan. “Truth matters. Leadership matters. If you remain president, we must be confident that you will make the right decisions. I don’t know if this is happening right now.
When asked by USA TODAY after his first testimony if he would reconsider the discipline imposed on Ausberry and Segar, Galligan replied “maybe”, but that he needed more time to process the testimony of the day. He added that he is not currently considering disciplining other employees, but has not ruled out the possibility.
Lawmakers also pointed out that they believed they addressed these issues in 2015, when they spent considerable time debating and enacting a series of laws to protect students from sexual violence on campus. These policies are good, they said. The problem is the employees who repeatedly failed to keep up with them.
“To say people didn’t know what to do is just bullshit,” Republican Rep. Paula Davis said, “I’m sorry. It’s bull. LSU failed them. I feel immense disappointment and sadness right now.