As lawmakers blast LSU, Gov. still finds university punishments reasonable
BATON ROUGE - While lawmakers met at the Capitol Thursday to discuss LSU's repeated Title IX compliance failures, Gov. John Bel Edwards was a few floors above, being quizzed on the same topic during his weekly news conference.
Edwards previously said he was "mortified" when he read the Husch Blackwell report, which was released last month, but has signaled his support for the limited suspensions of two athletics administrators cited repeatedly in the report as having failed to follow both federal law and university policy in reacting to sexual harassment and sexual assault of students or by students involved in LSU sports.
Miriam Segar was suspended for 21 days and Verge Ausberry was suspended for 30 days when the report was released. Both have returned to work.
When asked whether Ausberry, the executive deputy athletic director, should be fired for failing to properly report Title IX violations, most notably those involving former LSU football player Drake Davis, the governor seemed to cast most of the blame on Ausberry's superiors.
"I accept that he didn't properly report, but there's reason to believe he reported the way he was told to by his supervisor, by the person he worked for," Edwards said.
Edwards has repeatedly said he believes the people most responsible for LSU's Title IX failures no longer work at the university.
Former LSU President F. King Alexander recently resigned, under pressure, from the same position at Oregon State University.
Former football coach Les Miles and his new school, the University of Kansas, parted ways after details from a 2013 investigation into Miles' behavior with LSU student workers were revealed.
Edwards did say it would be helpful and constructive to have lawmakers hear from LSU leaders, like Ed Orgeron and Scott Woodward. Both men were among those called to appear before the Senate Select Committee on Women and Children.
They, and most of the other witnesses, sent in written testimony after the university barred employees from showing up in person.
Edwards acknowledged that the $50 million federal lawsuit filed by LSU employee Sharon Lewis made those appearances more complicated.
"I want members of the legislature, and I want members of the public, to have as much information as possible directly from those who were involved," Edwards said. "Whether that's even now possible with the pending litigation, I'm just not sure."
Edwards has announced support for several Title IX-related bills filed for the upcoming legislative session, including HB 409 filed by State Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman, which would "require termination of employees who fail to comply with reporting requirements" on college campuses.
He said the days of protecting universities are over.
"We don't have people anywhere in Louisiana who are irreplaceable," Edwards said. "Nobody is untouchable. So wherever the facts lead, that's where they need to go."
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