Opinion: LSU refusal to aid and protect alleged victims of sexual violence is campus-wide
BATON ROUGE — There has not been so much teamwork out of LSU since the football team went 15-0 and won the national championship last season.
And at least that was a worthy cause, although there were two key members of that team who were allegedly not worthy of participating, according to a USA TODAY investigative report published Monday about LSU's extremely suspect handling of accusations of sexual violence and misconduct for years.
Linebacker Jacob Phillips, who is now with the Cleveland Browns in the NFL as a third-round draft choice last spring, played on after an accusation of rape, the story said. And safety Grant Delpit, a second-round pick last spring also with Cleveland, played on despite an accusation that he recorded having sex with a woman without her knowledge, according to the story.
The most disturbing, distasteful and damning part of the piece, though, was the apparent organized teamwork and togetherness by LSU officials throughout campus.
It looks like just about all branches of LSU power were in this game of dismiss, divert, disregard and deny female accusers of various deviant behavior by football players and others, including rape and beatings. The football program, a tennis coach, a diving coach, two senior athletic administrators, the athletic department, the university, the Title IX office and LSU Police — they were all in.
Lack of institutional control is written all over LSU's face, and this will not bode well for the current NCAA investigations of LSU basketball and football still transpiring.
"They're making decisions that are best for the success of the program," Temple professor Elizabeth Taylor, who studies sexual assaults by athletes, says in the story. "And they're making the decision to put the safety and well-being of other students behind a player's ability to play on a Saturday afternoon."
The story says at least seven LSU officials had "direct knowledge" about the continued beatings of a female LSU tennis player by former LSU wide receiver Drake Davis in 2017 and '18.
Finally, in April of 2018, associate athletic director Miriam Segar, the athletic department's senior woman administrator, began to see the light and filed a Title IX report. Davis, though, was still practicing with the football team in early August 2018 after continued beatings of the tennis player.
The story does not say if LSU coach Ed Orgeron knew of Davis' beatings, but his only discipline of Davis at the time was a ban from the weight room that summer.
Read the investigation:LSU mishandled sexual misconduct complaints against students, including top athletes
See what Coach O had to say: LSU hires firm to review treatment of alleged sexual assault victims detailed by USA TODAY
Finally on Aug. 16, 2018, Segar called LSU Police after the tennis player showed her photos of bruises and scratches on her that she said Davis delivered. Davis was arrested and charged with felony dating violence, and he was indefinitely suspended from the football team and never returned.
Meanwhile, LSU deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry had a text message since the previous April from Davis in which he admitted to punching the female tennis player, according to the story. It is not known if Ausberry alerted the TItle IX office or anyone at LSU concerning Davis' behavior.
"There is due process there," Ausberry said on 104.5 FM radio in Baton Rouge on Monday. "I really can't discuss it."
LSU may soon be getting very acquainted with due process as, according to the story, it has broken federal laws for years requiring school officials to report such violent behavior against women to the Title IX office and campus police. LSU has also broken state public records laws by hiding information. The LSU Police Department is in on this as well, as it has refused to release full police reports.
All LSU employees, not just those in higher positions, are expected to report anything they witness or hear about regarding sexual misconduct to the Title IX office.
LSU's Title IX office, however, is also suspect for how it may have handled some reports or not handled them.
At least, LSU is respecting the report. It would be hard not to. It has the goods — video, texts, names of the accusers, police reports — albeit some of those incomplete.
And at least LSU talked a good game in its comments after the story was published.
“We do not tolerate sexual violence of any form," an LSU release states in a story that thoroughly contradicts that statement. But at least LSU made it sound good.
"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 continued. “Putting an end to sexual assault is an institutional priority, and we are constantly working to achieve that goal."
It's great to have goals. But if you read the full story, the above comment is laughable.
"We take any allegation very seriously and follow Title IX reporting protocols," he said. "We are committed to a culture of safety, equity and accountability for all students and staff. We provide education, training and resources to combat violence, sexual misconduct, and inequality. When we become aware of accusations, we have an obligation to immediately report every allegation to the University’s Title IX office so that appropriate due process can be implemented.”
Again, that sounds good for the future. But the action has obviously not been there in the past.
LSU athletic director Scott Woodward has not been on the job and amid this cover-up culture for two years yet. He badly needs to use his fresh face and approach and roll some heads, or at least accelerate retirements, demote or transfer.
LSU interim president Thomas Galligan, who should be retained, made a smart move Monday by hiring an outside law firm specializing in university issues to conduct an independent review of his school's sleazy shenanigans.
And instead of being overly defensive, he admitted wrongdoing and mentioned "misconduct" that was "ignored, dismissed outright or mishandled by coaches and university officials."
That is a start.
In closing, he said, "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."
We shall see if that pledge actually includes all football players.