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Dr. G. E. Ghali, chancellor of the LSU Health Sciences Center-Shreveport, addresses a July 30, 2020 press conference with Gov. John Bel Edwards, right, and Dr. Jimmy Guidry, then state health officer, in this file photo. Ghali was put on administrative leave Tuesday, April 12, 2021, for his handling of sexual harassment claims against his aides made by female medical students.

Dr. Ghali E. Ghali, chancellor of the LSU medical school in Shreveport, was put on administrative leave Tuesday, a day after four employees filed federal complaints alleging he suppressed sexual harassment allegations involving students and retaliated against the faculty members who brought attention to the matters.

LSU interim President Tom Galligan emailed LSU Health Shreveport employees: “We have been made aware of several EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) allegations against LSU Health Shreveport. In light of this, we believe the right thing to do is to place Chancellor Ghali on administrative leave until a thorough review is conducted.”

Dr. David Lewis was named acting chancellor. He is currently the dean of the medical school as well as a professor and chairman of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Ghali said Tuesday in a statement: “Yesterday, members of the media reported alleged claims against LSU Health Shreveport. On April 7, I received written notice the Title IX review of these same allegations was complete. The investigation did not find sufficient evidence to support any Title IX concern ... LSU Health Shreveport, under my guidance, will always lead by example and operate at the highest standards. Restoring trust in Louisiana's flagship university system should be a priority for every leader. I am confident in a positive outcome of any subsequent review. Still, considering the current system-wide controversy at LSU, I agreed to take a temporary administrative leave of absence during this review and return to campus upon its completion.”

A nationally recognized oral and maxillofacial surgeon, Ghali became chancellor of LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport in 2016. The LSU Board of Supervisors approved a two-year contract extension for him in 2019. Ghali's contract with LSU expires in December.

Monday’s filings with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged that one LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport administrator spoke to and touched inappropriately 16 female medical students. The filings also alleged that the medical school’s head of admissions required female students to write book reports on pornographic stories.

Both of the accused administrators were close to Ghali and retired soon after the allegations were made.

But one of the professors whom the students sought out for help was demoted and became the target of an official investigation as retribution, according to the EEOC complaints. Two others alleged that promotions were denied because they helped students and supported faculty members who tried to bring up sexual harassment matters.

LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport, founded in 1966, has three different medical-related schools and offers a Doctor of Medicine degree. Since 2018, when the affiliated LSU Health Hospital partnered with Ochsner, LSU Health Shreveport has offered residencies, or required on-the-job training, through eight programs and 15 fellowships.

Lisa Babin, head of communications for the medical school in Shreveport, said in a statement released late Monday about the EEOC filings: “The institution has investigated every complaint to date and taken appropriate actions. LSU Health Shreveport stands ready to defend itself against these latest allegations. 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.”

LSU administrators and the university’s Board of Supervisors have been pilloried over the past few weeks because of the university’s mishandling of sexual harassment complaints raised by women students. Husch Blackwell, a Missouri law firm hired by LSU to evaluate the Title IX office, issued a scathing report last month describing widespread mishandling of student allegations of rape, domestic violence and assault, and sexual harassment reported to university officials on the main campus in Baton Rouge. Some claims were entirely ignored.

Interim President Galligan apologized, created and funded a new office at the center of the Baton Rouge campus to handle the complaints, and is developing a concrete procedure for how the reports are investigated and adjudicated along with sanctions for personnel who don't follow the protocol. 

Former LSU football coach Les Miles lost his job at the University of Kansas because of the report. And former LSU President F. King Alexander resigned under pressure at his new post as head of Oregon State University for his role in the scandal. An associate athletic director filed a $50 million racketeering suit against the school.

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The legislative Select Committee on Women and Children has been holding emotional hearings – with victims telling their stories on the record – and legislators have lined up to call LSU's response insultingly slow and weak. Lawmakers have prepared a half-dozen bills that would add controls over the flagship’s administration.

The allegations against the medical school chancellor suggests the university’s problems extend beyond the LSU athletic department, which has been under intense scrutiny over the past two months.

The complaints against Ghali that were raised with the federal government Monday were also filed weeks ago with the LSU system’s Title IX office. The Title IX law, passed in 1972, prohibits sex discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

“The law protects people who are brave enough to blow the whistle and to right the wrongs of discrimination,” Allison A. Jones, a Shreveport lawyer representing the women filing the EEOC complaints. She called LSU’s action a minor step in the right direction.

“Only after news broke of the claims, has LSU now taken the tentative action of placing the chancellor of the LSU Medical School Shreveport on paid administrative leave,” Jones said. “The governor, the Board of Supervisors and LSU have a legal duty to protect the LSU workforce from this type of discrimination and to further protect my clients from discrimination or retaliatory conduct resulting from their brave opposition to the wrongs occurring at the LSU medical school in Shreveport.”

Jones also criticized the Board hearing from legislative defenders of Ghali rather than the women filed the EEOC complaints.

Ghali’s job performance was the subject of a Board of Supervisors meeting held behind closed doors Saturday. Four members of the Louisiana Legislature took advantage of a 1970 law that allow legislators to attend any board’s executive session, becoming the first lawmakers to do so at a supervisors’ meeting.

House Education Committee Chair Ray Garofalo, of Chalmette; House Health committee Chair Larry Bagley, of Stonewall; House Agriculture committee Chair Jack McFarland, of Jonesboro; and Rep. Charles Owen, of Rosepine; all Republicans, were there. The three committees hold considerable sway over LSU’s management and finances.

One of the legislators said the delegation – all but Garofalo are from north Louisiana – wanted supervisors to hear why they supported 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.

Calling Ghali the best medical school chancellor in years, Democratic Shreveport Sen. Greg Tarver, a longtime supporter, issued a statement Tuesday saying the LSU system was diverting attention from its own problems.

“Upon closer examination, it is apparent that the LSU System is attempting to take the heat off of LSU Baton Rouge by casting a shadow on the LSU Medical School in Shreveport for the sole benefit of LSU Baton Rouge,” Tarver said in his statement. “They are looking for a scapegoat.

“LSU Baton Rouge has never had any love for LSU Medical School in Shreveport. They act as if they care about us in Shreveport but they look at us very differently. In over twenty-eight years of serving in the State Senate, LSU Baton Rouge has never genuinely cared for north Louisiana.”


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.