LSU goes all but silent on Title IX failures; lawmakers look toward what’s next
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Members of the Senate Select Committee on Women and Children did not get the showdown they wanted as every person they called to testify regarding their roles in LSU’s failures in reporting sexual misconduct were barred from showing up.
Initially, lawmakers were hopeful the 10 requested current and former university leaders would appear before the committee. Invited were current and former board members as well as LSU head coach Ed Orgeron, Athletic Director Scott Woodward, Executive Deputy Athletic Director Verge Ausberry, and Sr. Associate Athletic Director Miriam Segar would appear. A letter sent out by LSU General Counsel Winston DeCuir on Wednesday, April 7, to Senator Regina Barrow dashed any hopes, though.
In that letter, DeCuir noted that due to “threatened litigation, it would not be prudent for persons associated with LSU to provide testimony under oath at the Senate committee meeting.”
Thursday morning, a lawsuit was filed in federal court by Associate Athletic Director Sharon Lewis alleging she endured years of workplace abuse and retaliation for reporting Title IX violations within the athletic department. Lewis also claimed there was a conspiracy to cover up those reports to “protect the brand.”
DeCuir did appear before the committee. He was repeatedly questioned about the decision to essentially silence anyone associated with LSU. DeCuir noted again that his main focus was to protect the university from any litigation but also saying that LSU is still working to fix any wrongdoings.
“That does not mean we aren’t working on this,” DeCuir said to the committee. “That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to fix this. That doesn’t mean we’re going to ignore all the things in this Husch-Blackwell report, not by any stretch.”
He did not inspire much confidence in the committee members. Sen. Karen Carter Peterson said she does not believe anything will change.
“The feeling I think we get is rather than trying to fix it, the experiences that we’ve seen in the previous 10 years is just look that way or just ignore it rather than fix it,” said Sen. Beth Mizell.
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At the end of the day, members of the committee were forced to look ahead to the legislative session and finalize plans for legislation that they hope will help prevent any kind of Title IX failures from happening again. In total, 17 bills have been filed that would directly address sexual violence. A number of those bills specifically target college campuses.
Any future hopes to compel LSU leaders to testify will now rely on standing legislative committees. The Select Senate Committee on Women and Children will lose any subpoena power it has as soon as the session begins next week.
There are mixed feelings among the members if that will happen.
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