LSU protest against sexual assault mishandlings

LSU students stand in support of sexual assault survivors on Friday, Nov. 20 at Pete Maravich Assembly Center on N Stadium Dr.

Student Government's new Sexual Violence Prevention Committee held its first committee meeting Feb. 10 and planned potential initiatives for the semester.

SVPC plans to draft school policies that reflect transparency and accountability in regard to sexual misconduct. Angelina Cantelli, deputy chief of staff, said that Texas schools like the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M have policies she’d like to implement at LSU.

“In Texas, there is a state law that schools have to switch alleged abusers out of classes with survivors,” Cantelli said. “We don’t have that in Louisiana. LSU is supposed to move survivors out of classes, but they haven’t been doing that anyway.” 

She will meet with a lawyer at STAR, a Louisiana-based organization that supports survivors of sexual assault, to draft Louisiana state legislation that mimics Texas’s approach.

UT and Texas A&M have programs that send students an email every time a crime happens on campus, especially sexual assault. She said programs like these might not make students feel safer, but it will increase transparency and give an accurate depiction of how dire the issue is.

“It keeps a sense of transparency between the student body and the Title IX office,” Cantelli said. “I talked to [a Texas student] who said they get emails reporting sexual assault two or three times per week.”

The committee decided it will evaluate the Husch Blackwell investigation into allegations that the University mishandled sexual misconduct reports once it is released. The University hired Husch Blackwell law firm to conduct an independent investigation of the University's handling of sexual assault cases. 

According to Interim President Thomas Galligan, the University retained Husch Blackwell to conduct an "independent review" of specific cases at the University and the entire Title IX reporting process. Galligan said Husch Blackwell is a firm with "extensive knowledge of and experience with Title IX in higher education."

“As soon as the report comes out, we need to have something ready to bring to administration laying out what they need to do next,” SG Director of Safety Abbie Grace Milligan said.

SG President Stone Cox said the report should be released in February or March. SVPC plans to meet with Husch Blackwell to open lines of communication about the investigation. Several members of the committee have met with the law firm already, including Milligan, Cantelli and SG Vice President Hannah Barrios. 

Milligan suggested the committee draft a policy statement regarding LSU Athletic Director Scott Woodward’s comments about Executive Deputy AD Verge Ausberry, who was accused of mishandling domestic violence reports. 

"I appreciate having had the opportunity to participate and, obviously, remain completely supportive of your most vital efforts, and will provide any outside assistance you might find appropriate," Ausberry wrote in his withdrawal.

Woodward told WAFB that Ausberry is a “very, very good employee in very, very good standing.” 

“It’s the principle of the thing,” Milligan said. “He acted like no matter what the report says, Verge will have a job.” 

Sophomore senator, Olivia Taylor, echoed her sentiment.

“Just because he has free speech doesn’t mean he won’t have consequences,” Taylor said.

In terms of recruiting members-at-large, students on the committee will reach out to LSU’s Black Women’s Empowerment Initiative, Women’s Tennis and Residential Life to fill the committee’s remaining three seats. They are considering recruiting a freshman who lives on campus as well.

“I know a lot of freshmen were talking about how they don’t feel safe in the dorms, so it would be valuable to get that perspective,” Cantelli said.

SVPC plans to invite guest speakers from Tigers Against Sexual Assault, the Title IX department and the international community at LSU to its future meetings.

Other committee members include junior Senator Harris Quadir, Speaker Pro Tempore Alex Basse, Senator Matt McClure and Director of Student Outreach Chandler Black.

SVPC will hold meetings Fridays at 3 p.m. in-person and on Zoom. 

The University is under federal investigation for "safety practices" following several sexual assault complaints, according to The Advocate.  The U.S. Department of Education will examine if LSU violated the Clery Act, which requires universities to report on-campus crimes and address sexual violence. The 1990 federal act aims for transparency within campus crime policies.

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