10-14-2017 Game Vs. Auburn

LSU junior running back Derrius Guice (5) embraces LSU football coach Ed Orgeron after the LSU Tigers' 27-23 victory against Auburn on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017 in Tiger Stadium.

An amended Title IX lawsuit puts legal force behind deeply disturbing allegations of a rape cover-up a USA TODAY investigation detailed almost a year ago.

Former university student Ashlyn Roberts, who was anonymous in the original news publishing of her story in August, says her then-boyfriend, a football player, informed Head Coach Ed Orgeron that running back Derrius Guice raped her, and that, instead of fulfilling his legal and moral obligation to report the case to the Title IX Office, Orgeron simply told the boyfriend not to worry because “everybody's girlfriend sleeps with other people.”

When this story became public, Orgeron released a statement saying “I have complied — and I will continue to comply — with all Title IX protocols and procedures” and claimed that the quote was “not accurate.”

Then, just like that, the university moved on. Serious, public allegations had emerged, claiming that its head football coach covered up a rape report against a star football player, and university officials, at least externally, threw the problem out with the news cycle. 

Though that’s unsurprising in the context of the university’s culture around sexual violence, let’s be perfectly clear: nothing about that should be considered normal or acceptable. A reasonable institution — one that values integrity and student safety — would have suspended Orgeron from coaching duties until it could conduct a thorough, independent investigation into the allegations made against him. But this university shows time and time again that its decision-making is instead led by the ever-higher forces of football, fame and fortune.

And still, additional allegations against Orgeron revealed in the Husch Blackwell report were not enough to prompt action from the university. In 2017, 74-year old Superdome worker Gloria Scott says that Guice sexually harassed her in an incident so degrading she said, “I might not never get over this until I die.” Scott says she told several administrators and Orgeron, but that no action was ever taken against Guice. Orgeron told investigators that he never spoke with Scott, a claim refuted by both Scott and her granddaughter. 

Ultimately only two things can explain the university’s public blindness to these accusations.

The first is that university officials don’t believe these women are credible, an explanation that would say something disturbing about the culture of the university and its athletics department. This ignorant denial of even a possibility of wrongdoing by Orgeron would be deeply negligent, especially considering the amount of corroboration both these women have.

The second — and, in my view, much more likely — is that they think the claims are credible and simply don’t care. The allegations are viewed not as a concerning insight into the character of Orgeron, but rather an inconvenient public relations problem, much like the rest of this year’s Title IX scandal.

The same administrators and board members that sat idly by while claims that one of our university’s most powerful men covered up a rape allegation made against a football player want you to believe that everyone involved in the years of Title IX abuses at this institution are long gone. 

When these officials speak of change, how can students possibly believe them? Their failure to investigate Orgeron alone proves the disingenuous reality of their proclamations. Though they can feign outrage over Title IX problems they’ve known about for years, the leaders of this university ultimately suffer from the same lack of courage and competence they so condemn in their predecessors.

Orgeron is a celebrity in Baton Rouge and adored by the loyal fanbase of the LSU Tigers that he gave a National Championship Title to in 2019. But, far more importantly, he has been credibly accused of covering up rape and sexual harassment allegations made against one of his players.

The question of Orgeron’s conduct poses a simple dilemma to the university: football or students. 

It seems they’ve made their choice.

Claire Sullivan is an 18-year-old coastal environmental science sophomore from Southbury, Connecticut.

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