BR.placesandspaces.adv HS 021.JPG

The sun shines down on an empty quad at LSU on the first full day of Governor John Bel Edwards' Stay at Home order to combat the spread of coronavirus, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La.

As LSU continues to probe how campus officials have handled allegations of sexual misconduct, Associate Dean of Students Jonathan Sanders has temporarily stopped overseeing decisions about punishing students and organizations found responsible for infractions on campus.

"Pending a review that includes checking facts in recent media articles as well as the Husch Blackwell report, Jonathan Sanders has agreed to not be involved in decision making in Student Advocacy and Accountability during this time," said LSU spokesman Jim Sabourin.

The review is being overseen by LSU's human resources department, Sabourin said. Sanders has not been suspended from his job, nor is he on administrative leave.

The news comes amid continued fallout of how LSU officials have handled allegations of sexual misconduct and domestic violence on campus in recent years. Sanders was the subject of a critical USA Today piece on March 17, which said he regularly gave students the lightest possible sanctions even after finding them responsible for acts such as rape and abuse. USA Today followed up Thursday to report that Sanders was under investigation.

Several students have complained about LSU's seeming preference for light punishments after filing Title IX complaints. The Advocate | The Times-Picayune reported last year that students said they often felt pressured to accept "deferred suspensions" for the perpetrators in their cases.  

Among the students who said they were pressured into accepting deferred suspensions: Alex Reyes, who filed a Title IX complaint against a student who was arrested on counts of video voyeurism and burglary after she caught him filming her as she changed in her dorm room. Title IX investigators found him responsible for violating LSU’s sexual misconduct policy.

But Reyes said Sanders repeatedly advocated for the student to receive a deferred suspension, in which he would remain on campus and only be suspended if he were found responsible for violating another university policy in the future. Reyes pushed back against Sanders' suggestions, and the student found responsible in her case was eventually given a one-year suspension.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

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

USA Today found that LSU expelled just one student for rape, dating violence and similar misconduct from 2016 through 2020, despite finding 46 students responsible for those offenses.

USA Today did not draw any comparisons to LSU's Southeastern Conference peers, but found that some other large schools with major sports programs were much tougher on perpetrators. Ohio State, for instance, expelled 28 students who committed similar offenses within the same time frame, Michigan State expelled 16 and the University of Central Florida expelled 12.

While much of the recent focus on Sanders has involved his decision-making on cases involving rape and dating violence, Sanders has also previously been one of the main officials at LSU responsible for overseeing Greek Life. Sanders began working as Greek Life's assistant director in 2006, and worked his way up the chain of command.

It's been up to Sanders in recent years to enforce punishments once Greek institutions — usually fraternities — are found to be hazing and breaking other rules. Though LSU insisted it would clean up Greek Life after the 2017 death of fraternity pledge Max Gruver following a night of forced drinking at his fraternity house, problems have lingered. A fraternity freshman was hospitalized this fall with a dangerously high blood-alcohol level of .451 after a fraternity event.

LSU Police arrested a student last November on counts of felony hazing, misdemeanor hazing and failure to seek assistance over that incident.

Sanders also wrote a letter last week announcing that the fraternity Kappa Sigma was being suspended over allegations that members hazed pledges, served alcohol to minors and disregarded coronavirus protocols.

Investigative reporting is more essential than ever, which is why we’ve established the Louisiana Investigative Journalism Fund, a non-profit supported by our readers.

To learn more, please click here.