Four employees of LSU medical school in Shreveport – two of whom are physicians – filed complaints Monday with the federal government saying LSU leadership failed to act when told that Chancellor Dr. Ghali E. Ghali had tamped down reports of widespread harassment and disciplined faculty who raised the allegations.

The complaints suggest problems with the university’s handling of sexual harassment and abuse allegations extend beyond the LSU athletic department, which has been under intense scrutiny over the past two months.

“I have witnessed and been informed about numerous incidents of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliatory actions perpetrated by Dr. Ghali and both other members of senior leadership with his knowledge and support,” wrote Assistant Professor Christi Rinaudo, who also is the director for academic affairs at LSU Health Shreveport, in one complaint.

The filings with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allege 16 medical students reported sexual harassment by an administrative faculty member and that the dean of admissions required good-looking female applicants and students to write book reports on pornographic stories. Both of those accused administrators retired recently, but the LSU Health Sciences Center employees who students went to for help were retaliated against by Ghali, according to the EEOC complaint.

“We have been informed that notices of retaliation, gender and race discrimination are being filed against LSU Health Shreveport. The institution has investigated every complaint to date and taken appropriate actions. LSU Health Shreveport stands ready to defend itself against these latest allegations,” Lisa Babin, head of communications for the medical school in Shreveport, said in statement released late Monday. “Recent sex-based discrimination issues were raised as part of Chancellor G. E. Ghali’s employee assessment which LSU immediately submitted to its Office of Title IX. On April 7, 2021, Chancellor Ghali received written notice that the Title IX review had been completed and there was not sufficient evidence to raise a Title IX concern.”

The complaints were also filed weeks ago with the LSU System’s Title IX office, which is supposed to oversee the handling of sexual harassment complaints. A law firm hired by LSU to evaluate the Title IX office issued a scathing report last month saying the university failed at many levels in handling such allegations. LSU administrators and the Board of Supervisors have been sharply criticized by state legislators and many others for their mishandling of complaints.

“Unfortunately, LSU does not have just a ‘boys will be boys’ in the athletic department type of problem. LSU has a systemic culture throughout its campuses, including the LSU School of Medicine in Shreveport, that does not protect women in its workforce from blatant discrimination and retaliation and does not promote equal opportunity for its workforce,” said Allison A. Jones, a Shreveport attorney representing the employees. “The governor, the LSU Board of Supervisors, and any legislator or counsel who advised either to take no action at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting on April 10, 2021, should, simply put, be ashamed.”

Ghali’s job performance was the subject of a Board of Supervisors meeting behind closed doors Saturday that was attended by three Republican legislative chairmen whose House committees have significant sway over LSU operations and finance.

One of the legislators said they wanted the supervisors to know of their strong support of Ghali. During his time as chancellor, Ghali has been credited with forging alliances with other hospital systems that helped shore up the medical school during trying financial times.

Another group of legislators – members of the Select Committee on Women and Children – has been holding hearings on the LSU scandal and has prepared a half-dozen bills that would add controls over the flagship’s administration.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

Several of the female medical school students went to Associate Professor Dr. Jennifer Woerner, who served as the whistleblower. Ghali was not accused of sexual harassment, but retaliating against whistleblowers who sought to bring attention to actions in the administration.

Some students complained to her about F. Scott Kennedy, the former dean of admissions, who has retired. A phone call to Kennedy's home in Shreveport went unanswered.

“Three medical students came to me in writing about a host of offenses to include: writing pornographic book reports, asking students out for wine, derogatory comments about their looks, and taking photos of young women. Dr. Kennedy was a long-time friend of Dr. Ghali’s and routinely helped Dr. Ghali place unqualified applicants through the back door into medical school as personal, professional, or political favors,” Woerner wrote. 

After Woerner raised the issues, Ghali demoted her from the Admissions Committee, which she had served on for the past eight years. Within in the last few weeks, the medical school administration launched an investigation into Woerner based on a complaint filed by Dr. Wanda Thomas, who became dean of admissions after Kennedy retired.

Woerner wrote that she had never been given a copy of the complaint as required by the employee guidelines.

In another instance, a student came to Woerner in January, complaining of “questions, comments, offensive jokes, and public humiliation” and claiming another woman resident reporting “she was the victim of bullying and harassment by the same individuals a year prior.”

Woerner wrote that she relayed the complaints to medical school administrators, but nothing happened.

“I do believe that there are legitimate concerns here. Some of the inappropriate comments that have been reported to me include that a woman that was shot in the neck by her boyfriend must have been shot because she ‘didn't finish the dishes,’" Woerner wrote. “Photoshopping one of our openly gay fellows with a cowboy hat and straw referring to him as 'brokeback' and dispersing this throughout the program.”

She was referring to “Brokeback Mountain,” a 2005 movie about two cowboys in a homosexual relationship. Her report was backed by another filing an EEOC complaint, Dr. Christina Notarianni.


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.