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LSU suspends 2 administrators after inquiry into school’s handling of sexual misconduct

Louisiana State University suspended two senior administrators in the wake of a stinging report Friday that chronicled the school’s failure to protect students from sexual assaults.

The 262 pages of findings, compiled by an outside law firm found that LSU has, for years, failed to provide victims of sexual assault and harassment a pathway to report and gave athletic department officials undue influence in the school’s handling of complaints.

“We have to own up to the mistakes we have made up in the past,” LSU interim President Thomas Galligan told reporters after the report was shared with members of LSU’s Board of Supervisors. “We have got to change this culture.”

Executive Deputy Director of Athletics Verge Ausberry and Senior Associate Athletic Director Miriam Segar were suspended for 30 and 21 days without pay, respectively, for mishandling complaints made about student-athletes and in one case, a report by an athlete of his own actions, LSU officials announced on Friday.

The inquiry was commissioned following an extensive USA Today report last year on the school’s seeming lack of action against several male students, including athletes, who were accused of sexual misconduct.

“Throughout this report, we have stressed that in many ways the employees tasked with these important responsibilities were not served well by the leadership (of LSU),” according to a report by national law firm Husch Blackwell.

“Institutional policies were unclear, edicts were issued by supervisors that conflicted with policy, employees were overburdened with vast institutional roles and not provided with appropriate resources, calls for additional resources went unheeded, concerns were not responded to.”

Husch Blackwell attorney Scott Schneider, who oversaw the investigation, said there have been too many instances when complaints against student-athletes remained within tight athletic department circles.

“You cannot allow athletics to basically decide what gets forwarded to the Title IX office; it needs to go directly to the Title IX office,” Schneider said of the school’s office that protects students from gender-based discrimination.

In one instance, LSU wide receiver Davis Drake told Ausberry in an April 14, 2018, text message that he punched a former girlfriend and fellow LSU student in the stomach, according to the report.

That Drake-Ausberry communications were uncovered by local prosecutors, who encouraged the school to open a Title IX investigation alleging that the administrator did not forward the information to proper LSU officials.

“However, despite being provided with this information, no Title IX investigation regarding Ausberry’s failure to report Davis’ admission of dating violence … was immediately initiated,” the report said. “This information was also not shared with the university’s Title IX coordinator.”

Kansas Head Coach Les Miles walks between cheering fans of Hawk Walk prior to the Sunflower Showdown game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday Nov. 2, 2019 at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan.Nick Tre. Smith / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images file

Segar, too, was accused of failing to report potential misconduct, in the report.

A female student once came to her about a complaint against then-football coach Les Miles, regarding “something that happened when she was alone with” the coach, the report said.

“According to two Athletics employees interviewed as part of our review, Student 1 met with Segar, but ‘the University never did anything about it,'” according to the report.

“There is no record of this student’s concern being investigated in a manner consistent with then-University policy. There are also no records or other evidence of Student 1 being provided with notice of her rights and options in response to the complaint, or perhaps more importantly, any supportive resources.”

Ausberry did not contest report findings and told NBC News on Friday: “What’s in the report is accurate.”

“I accept the conclusions and decisions rendered by the university and absolutely respect the commitment to putting the welfare of all students first,” Ausberry said in a written statement.

“My entire career has been dedicated to LSU and the ideal of promoting and protecting student interests and I regret that my actions in this instance fell short of that standard. I intend to redouble my personal efforts to make our university a model for best practices in the area of domestic and campus safety and dignity.”

A publicly listed a cellphone for Segar had been disconnected, and she did not immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment.

Ausberrry and Segar were the only employees suspended, but Galligan said the report showed an institutional failure that went well beyond two people.

“Perhaps most troubling of all the report’s findings is the understanding that, whether through our actions or inactions, our institution betrayed the very people we are sworn to protect,” Galligan said in a statement.

Although not a primary focus of the Husch Blackwell findings, the report shed light on a previously unknown, internal 2013 LSU inquiry, conducted by Louisiana law firm Taylor Porter, into the former football coach, Miles.

Miles later became head football coach at the University of Kansas. On Friday the school’s director of athletics, Jeff Long, said he placed Miles on leave.

“Today, I placed head football coach Les Miles on administrative leave as we conduct a full review to determine the appropriate next steps,” Long said in a statement. “We are reviewing the Husch Blackwell report released today by LSU following yesterday’s release of the Taylor Porter report. The past two days have been the first time that we have had access to either report.”

“Even though the allegations against him occurred at LSU, we take these matters very seriously at KU,” the athletic director said.

At LSU Miles was accused of “inappropriate contact and text messages” with a female student and demanded that female student employees in the football office be pretty and blonde.

“Taylor Porter learned that numerous Athletic Department employees indicated that Miles became more hands on about many things in the Athletic Department, including the selection of student employees,” the Husch Blackwell report said.

“In particular, according to witnesses interviewed by Husch Blackwell, Miles allegedly participated in recruiting and interviewing female student employees and ‘wanted them to have a certain look.’

“Employees interviewed as part of Husch Blackwell’s review stated that `only certain ones were allowed to be in the head coach’s office, not everyone. And most of them were either blonde, they were all attractive, but most of them that came through here were blonde.’ ”

The report also showed that in 2013, just after the Taylor Porter report was completed, then-athletic director Joe Alleva wanted to fire Miles.

“I think we have cause,” he wrote in a June 21, 2013, email to then-incoming president F. King Alexander. “I specifically told him not to text, call or be alone with any student workers and he obviously didn’t listen.”

A lawyer for Miles denied allegations against Miles and said the coach’s “naturally open and trusting nature exposes him to false claims by people with a different agenda than his.”

“Coach Miles has always been supportive and friendly with his entire staff – men and women,” his attorney Peter Ginsberg said in a statement to NBC News on Friday.

“For this, he has been punished this week by unfair speculation and media attacks. Fortunately for those with whom he works, Coach Miles remains dedicated to his role as mentor and role model.”

Miles is the second-winningest coach in school history, totaling 114 victories against just 34 defeats in his 12 seasons prowling the Tigers sidelines between 2005 and 2016. His 2007 and 2011 squads captured conference titles and the former a national championship.

The title-winning coach was fired four games into the 2016 campaign before he was hired by the University of Kansas, where he’s been in charge for two seasons. The Jayhawks are 3-18 under Miles.

Source:

www.nbcnews.com

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