Interim Vice President of Civil Rights and Title IX, Jane Cassidy, presented a report on the progress and expansion of the Title IX office to the LSU Board of Supervisors on Thursday. The next day, the board received a 90-minute training session on Title IX and power-based violence.
The biannual report on power-based violence detailed statistics behind every open and closed case from June 29, 2021 to September 30, 2021. There are 17 open cases and 46 closed cases, totaling 63 acts of reported violence within a 3-month timeframe.
The highest two reported behaviors were sexual assault/forcible rape at 28% and hostile environment sexual harassment at 18%.
In the same report, Cassidy included that 44% of closed cases end with unsuccessful outreach, meaning the office's three attempts of outreach via email and/or text received no response by survivors who filed a report.
Title IX coordinator Joshua Jones speculated this number is because many survivors prefer to not be reached and don’t want to relive traumatic moments.
The next day, the Board reconvened at 9 a.m. to receive a 90-minute training session on Title IX procedures. The presentation was led by Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response (STAR), a non-profit that provides support to survivors of sexual trauma, improves systems response and creates social change to end sexual violence.
STAR has helped 43 LSU students in 2021 and 175 LSU students since 2017. The nonprofit continues to work closely with Jane Cassidy amid the office’s expansion.
The main topics covered within the presentation included a briefing on PM-73, power-based violence, the board’s job as mandated reporters of sexual violence and what qualifies as harassment.
Board member Mary L. Werner distinguished herself as an advocate for the issues the presenters spoke on. One of the two presenters, Rebecca Marchiafava, stated that board members are mandatory reporters, which Werner promptly asked her to repeat to ensure the entirety of the board heard.
“Could you repeat that a little louder please so that everyone is aware about what you just said?” Werner asked.
After Marchiafava repeated her statement, Werner continued to emphasize the importance of the board's responsibility as mandatory reporters.
“No questions. No doubts,” Werner said. “[If] we know something, we’re required to report it.”
The presenters also discussed what can qualify as harassment. Board member Jay Blossman was frustrated that “facial expressions” were among some of the actions mentioned. He was frustrated at the prospect that some men could be accused of being a criminal through friendly gestures, calling it "ridiculous."
“You can’t even say good morning anymore,” Blossman said.
Other board members agreed with Blossman’s argument. One member asked if saying “good morning, darlin',” is harassment, which prompted a five-minute debate over what is considered harassment and why.
It has been nearly 50 years since Title IX law was implemented into the education amendments of 1972. Marchiafava asked the board to reflect upon the progress LSU has made on Title IX and where the board wishes to see LSU in the next 50 years.
In her report, Cassidy announced the office’s completion of 14 of the 18 Husch Blackwell recommendations that were released in the law firm’s 150-page investigative report after LSU’s mishandling of sexual assault cases came to light in 2020.
The recommendations still left to complete on Husch Blackwell’s list are recommendations one, two, five and 17.
Recommendation one is to properly staff the entirety of the office. There are currently two vacant positions – the Deputy Title IX Coordinator and one more Title IX investigator.
Recommendation two is to designate a deputy Title IX coordinator for prevention and training, which cannot be completed until progress is made on the first recommendation. Cassidy said interviews are set next week to potentially fill both positions.
Recommendation five of Husch Blackwell’s list is to consider presumptively appropriate sanctions. The office has revised Permanent Memorandum No. 73, an LSU policy that outlines the process of investigating complaints of sexual misconduct and Title IX. The office has created a new draft of the policy and wants input from the students, faculty, and staff for implementation by the first of the year.
Recommendation 17 is to regularly measure climate and effectiveness. Cassidy believes this can be achieved through student participation and said approval from the Board of Supervisors is necessary to check this off of the list.
“By the end of this year, we’ll have checked off 17 of the 18 recommendations, the last one of which, we will need to wait for the Board of Regents to do that,” Cassidy said.
LSU has committed over one million dollars to the office, and that number continues to rise as the office expands and the year progresses.