Interim President Thomas Galligan spoke to the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday and discussed challenges the University has faced during the fall semester. Some mentioned include allegations of mishandling of sexual assault that the University is currently facing and plans for the spring semester amid COVID-19.
He said the University has hired Husch Blackwell law firm to conduct an independent investigation of the University's handling of sexual assault cases. Before the University takes action, Galligan said he wants to hear Husch Blackwell's full investigation and review, unless the law firm suggests before the full investigation concludes.
"We want to get Husch Blackwell's take on and analysis of who knew what, when, what did they do and what did they not do before we take action," Galligan said.
"If there was anyone in a position where I thought a student was at risk now, we would put them on administrative leave."
A representative from Husch Blackwell reported to the LSU Board of Supervisors at their Dec.…
He said he has met with lawyers from Husch Blackwell and sent them over 60 files of cases and reports that the University received from 2016 through 2018 for the law firm to review. He said these cases include ones that were not reported to Title IX but the University heard from another source, like the media.
This week, Husch Blackwell will begin interviews around campus.
"I'm sad that we may have failed even a single student who reached out to us after being a victim of sexual assault or violence or any violation of Title IX," Galligan said. "It's not acceptable."
Husch Blackwell will undertake a "comprehensive review" of the University's Title IX reporting process and how that process is implemented when cases are reported. Galligan said the investigation should conclude in February and the findings will be made public.
He said in the meantime, the University has taken action. He said the administration has met with student leaders to hear their experiences and has requested feedback from faculty and staff about the University's current Title IX enforcement.
"This information will help us identify trends and challenges faced by our students, so that we can make reporting assaults as straightforward a process as possible, provide better and more sensitive support to victims and find ways to prevent assault from happening in the first place," Galligan said.
Galligan said he reemphasized to University leadership that every University employee is required to report any knowledge of sexual assault to the Title IX Office with limited exceptions for few individuals who have confidential roles.
"We want to make sure that everyone at LSU clearly understands the requirement to report and how to do so," Galligan said.
He said LSU Athletics Director Scott Woodward has reemphasized the same message to the athletics staff.
Mandatory Title IX training is required of all employees by Dec. 31, Galligan said, and he said he hopes to improve Title IX training going forward.
He said the University is working with the Baton Rouge Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response Center and received a proposal from the center on how the University can improve Title IX compliance and culture.
"We'll also continue to investigate every report of sexual abuse or sexual violence, and we will hold those responsible accountable," Galligan said.
He said the University will asses violations in Title IX policy and the appropriate sanction that is justified by the violation. He said if necessary, he will use his authority as president to dismiss violators of Title IX policy.
He said if an employee on campus has tenure or contracts and is found responsible of violating Title IX policy or law, those contracts could be negated.
As for the University's response to COVID-19, Galligan said though this has not been a perfect academic semester, LSU "has gotten through it."
Galligan said the University plans to deliver about half of the spring semester classes in person or in a hybrid fashion. Of the classes delivered online, Galligan said 71% will be synchronous.