BATON ROUGE, La. — The Senate Select Committee on Women and Children hoped to hear from nine high-ranking LSU officials Thursday as they worked to learn more about how the university handled reported of sexual harassment on campus.
None showed. Instead, the university’s attorney spoke.
Winston DeCuir, LSU’s vice president of legal affairs, told the committee that after associated athletic director Sharon Lewis announced she planned to sue the university for $50 million, it wouldn’t be wise to let her -- or any other employees -- testify.
Lewis alleged she was retaliated against after she reported on alleged sexual harassment by former head coach Les Miles. Miles disputes those claims.
“This is a serious lawsuit. A civil RICO suit combined with allegations of discrimination and Title IX retaliation is going to be a messy affair,” DeCuir said.
That didn’t stop lawmakers from letting him know how displeased they are right now.
“Has anyone at LSU at this point been dismissed?” state Sen. Karen Carter-Peterson asked.
“No,” DeCuir responded.
“The appearance is that everything is being done to kick the can,” Peterson said.
State Rep. Aimee Freeman called LSU tone deaf when students told her the university put up a post on its Instagram page marking sexual assault awareness month.
“To take no action and post a photo like this? The student called me to say 'please go look at this Instagram post. This is hurting survivors.' That’s all I have to say, madam chair."
LSU students who spoke say the university isn’t doing enough to make any meaningful changes.
“We the students don’t work for LSU,” said Mia Lejune, a student. “LSU works for us.”
Several of the lawmakers say it wasn’t enough that two LSU athletics department employees were only suspended after a recent report about how the university handled reports of sexual harassment within the athletic department.
That could soon change.
House Bill 409 by Freeman would make it a fireable offense to know about -- but not properly report -- something such as sexual harassment on a college campus.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is supporting that bill.
Edwards said he believes that the suspensions of Verge Ausberry and Miriam Segar were appropriate and that he would’ve supported firings if higher-ranking employees who worked at LSU when the harassment happened were still employed there.
“Nobody is beyond reach. We don’t have people anywhere in Louisiana who are irreplaceable,” he said during an afternoon press conference. “Nobody is untouchable. So wherever the facts lead, that’s where we need to go.”