LSU at Night

Tiger Stadium shines bright Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020 at night on N Stadium Road on LSU's campus.

After an article in USA Today exposed the mishandling of sexual assault allegations by the University, 26 student leaders across campus have called for action.

"We are calling for the immediate resignation of any administration or staff of LSU or LSU Athletics who have either actively mishandled, suppressed Title IX claims or have knowledge of the mishandling or suppression and failed to act," the letter read.

The letter, titled "An Open Letter to LSU Administration and LSU Athletics Regarding the Consistent and Willful Mishandling of Title IX Claims," was signed and co-signed Monday by student leaders including Louisiana Youth Platform Co-Director Jack Green, Black Women’s Empowerment Initiative Chairwoman Alaysia Johnson, Student Body Vice President Hannah Barrios and Black Student Union President Codee Jones.

"The University has made it apparent that football jerseys and money hold more weight than the lives and well-being of the student body," the letter read.

The letter called for the Title IX Office to "make more efforts to enforce, protect and communicate the regulations and policy it creates" and for University administration to address sexual assault and abuse.

Coastal environmental science and political science senior Jack Green is one of the signers of the letter. Green said he has heard many stories of LSU or LSU Athletics mishandling sexual misconduct claims during his time at the University. He said the USA Today article reflected a "abysmal and disappointing" aspect of being a student at LSU -- that so many people are aware of this issue but are complacent about addressing it.

"So after reading the article, I knew regardless of what the response from the University would be throughout the day that I wanted to write this letter calling for a specific and immediate action and invite student leaders to sign on," Green said.

Green said he does not think the students' letter is asking too much. 

"Victims of assault and abuse have spoken out and been systematically and willfully ignored by administrators at this University," Green said. "They will very likely not receive the justice that has been denied to them. All we can do now is work together as a campus community to ensure justice is not denied in the future, but these administrators cannot be considered a part of that community anymore."

In an email sent to all students Monday evening, Interim President Thomas Galligan responded to the USA Today article.

"I want to assure you that LSU takes every report of sexual assault or violence seriously. We investigate them thoroughly, support victims sensitively and hold offenders accountable," Galligan wrote in the email. "However, we are not perfect, and we can, and will, do better. A single instance of abuse or sexual violence is one too many."

Galligan said the University empathizes with the victims in the article and all victims of abuse or violence. He wrote that the University has "retained" Husch Blackwell, which he described as a "renowned law firm with deep expertise in higher education" to conduct a review of the University's Title IX policies. Galligan said the review should be completed in the spring.

Student Body President Stone Cox tweeted his and Student Body Vice President Hannah Barrios' response to the article on Tuesday. 

"We are deeply concerned with the safety of every student and express firm support for survivors," the response read. "We commend their bravery to speak up and acknowledge that survivors should not have to come forward publicly in order for change to come from a broken system."

The response said that Cox and Barrios are working on "several events and initiatives to advocate and educate," including a discussion on campus about campus climate and training from the Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response Center.

"Sexual assault is an issue that affects communities all over the nation," the letter read. "Sadly, our University has failed to address this issue. We will strive to end sexual violence within the LSU community. We know that this is not the final answer to ending sexual violence on campus, but we believe it to be steps in the right direction."

Green said Cox's response was a "very respectful press release" that outlined Student Government's planned attempts to work with the administration on this issue.

"As reflected in my letter, I personally believe after reading the USA Today article that there can be no movement forward while the administrators at the University and in Athletics who have created this culture of victim blaming and victim shaming still hold positions," Green said.

LSU Athletics also issued a statement soon after the article was published on Monday.

"We are aware of the USA Today article and are reviewing the allegations. In the meantime, it’s important for us to emphasize that LSU does not tolerate sexual assault or any form of abuse," the statement read. "We are committed to responding promptly to any reports of misconduct, to investigating these reports in a manner that is fair and equitable, and to supporting the victims in every way we can. Putting an end to abuse and sexual assault is an institutional priority, and we are constantly working to achieve that goal.”

In his weekly football media conference on Monday, LSU Head Football Coach Ed Orgeron addressed the USA Today article. 

"First, I want to say that we need to support and protect victims of violence, sexual abuse of any kind," Orgeron said. "There's no place in our society nor on this campus or on our football program for any behavior of this type."

Orgeon said when accusations are made, there is a "legal and moral obligation" to report every allegation to the LSU Title IX Office. He said he has taken this action in the past and plans to continue to take "appropriate action" and "comply with reporting protocols."

Orgeron was asked if he felt that what was addressed in the USA Today article happened or "were culturally set in" before he began coaching at LSU. He said that the question is important, but he said he would not comment on it.

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