BR.govcorona.073120. 0117 bf.jpg (copy)

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.

Five more women have come forward to speak out about unresolved sexual harassment complaints at the LSU medical school in Shreveport, offering accounts that are strikingly similar to allegations made last month by four women in federal complaints that led to the suspension of Dr. Ghali E. Ghali as chancellor of LSU Health Shreveport.

The women, who filed federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints April 12, gathered in Shreveport Wednesday for a press conference to remind LSU’s Board of Supervisors of their plight.

Supervisors are meeting Thursday to name the new LSU System president and chancellor. LSU’s new leader will take ownership of an ongoing scandal in which administrators are accused of covering up sexual misconduct allegations reported by young female students over a period of years.

“My clients have been faced with a massive public relations campaign against them, and no one in the state seems willing to protect them,” said lawyer Allison A. Jones, who represents the four women who filed EEOC complaints. “The Board of Supervisors is meeting tomorrow. They should take this opportunity to act.”

In their EEOC complaints, Jones' four clients outlined allegations that 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. The LSU Health Sciences Center employees who students went to for help suffered retaliation from Ghali, according to the EEOC complaints.

Ghali did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. But he has denied the allegations and pointed out that the two administrators accused of sexually harassing the students were forced into retirement within days of his being made aware of the issue. He also said that LSU’s Title IX office, named for the federal statute concerning the handling of sexual harassment claims, had closed the case on the students and two administrators about a week before interim President Tom Galligan suspended Ghali on April 13 – the day after the EEOC complaints had been filed.

The five additional women who came forward Wednesday are not part of any lawsuit and the incidents they reported happened a few years ago – too long ago for an EEOC complaint to be filed.

Three of the women, former employees, detailed how Ghali kissed them on the mouth unbidden, which supports allegations in the EEOC complaint. A fourth former employee alleged Ghali patted her on the butt while with a group of colleagues, then laughed about it.

The new reports reiterate the same allegations of retaliation that were outlined in the EEOC complaints.

“The fact that there are new people coming forward with allegations of misconduct and confirming the allegations of my clients is hardly surprising,” Jones said. “I believe we have seen just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to misconduct at LSU Medical School in Shreveport. …For some reason, there is reluctance to do what must be done – and this is to clean house and permanently change the current leadership at LSU Medical School in Shreveport so that the culture can become one that promotes gender equity and diversity and is conducive to their mission to teach, heal and to discover.”

Most of the complaints allege that Ghali retaliated against medical school physicians, professors and staffers who exposed the harassment of students by Dr. F. Scott Kennedy, who had been the dean of admissions for years. Kennedy abruptly retired last month after Ghali addressed the complaints with him. There was no answer at Kennedy’s house on Wednesday.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

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

Sierra Smith’s experience in 2012 during the admissions process at LSU Health Shreveport caused her to give up on a lifelong dream of being a doctor.

Then a 20-year-old with excellent grades, she said in an interview Monday that her meeting with Kennedy quickly turned awkward when he asked: “What would you be willing to do to have an acceptance letter sitting on my desk?”

His ideas included dropping everything she knew and moving to Seattle to become a yoga instructor. He then said, "I need to close the door, so I can take in the fragrance of your ambience. You smell like an angel that dropped from heaven."

He led the discussion towards books, landing on “Fifty Shades of Grey,” a best-selling British novel with explicit erotic scenes. “He was quick to tell me that the book ‘didn't even come close to comparison with him and his wife's sex life.’"

She told her mother, then reported the incident to other members of the medical school. They told her they had heard similar stories from other applicants and that nothing could be done. It was suggested that Smith not bring it up again.

“Their response disappointed me,” said Smith, who deferred her application and studied occupational therapy. 

Ghali often kisses women unsolicited, at least according to affidavits by women who work at the medical school. One recalled him kissing five or six women on the lips while handing out service pins at an employee appreciation banquet. “They were at a loss for gracefully deflecting it and so, allowed it to occur,” said one affidavit.

Another former professor, Dr. Michelle Arnold, recalled Ghali kissing her on the mouth in front of male colleagues. “This was a prolonged kiss,” Arnold recalled, followed by Ghali laughing about the incident.

“It was a power thing. Everything there (LSU Health-Shreveport) is about power. To show my who held the upper hand and that they have some level of control,” Arnold said.

When Arnold was passed over for tenure, after receiving support at every level of review but the chancellor’s office, she took another job out of state and left Louisiana.


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.