Gov. John Bel Edwards on Thursday declined to call for the ouster of any LSU officials in the wake of a scathing investigation that showed school officials repeatedly ignored complaints of sexual abuse and violence, including allegations against several athletes. But the governor said he was “extremely troubled” by the allegations.
A USA Today investigation found LSU failed to seriously investigate claims of abuse and denied victims’ request for protection. The report said a host of LSU officials knew about students’ complaints of violence and sexual abuse against star football players and others but failed to address or investigate them promptly.
Edwards, when asked at his weekly press conference whether Coach Ed Orgeron or any other LSU official should be ousted, said, “I’m not prepared to say any individual needs to be fired.”
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“We have to take this very seriously,” Edwards said. “We cannot tolerate any instances where someone might willfully turn a blind eye to credible allegations of this type of violence and abuse. If that happened we need to know about it.”
He called on the flagship university to conduct an investigation, which the school has already launched, to find out which officials knew about the complaints of abuse, and what they did about them.
Edwards, a Democrat in his second term as governor, has control of the LSU Board of Supervisors, which makes hiring and firing decisions of the school administration, including athletics. He has appointed each member of the board, after several tapped by former Gov. Bobby Jindal termed out.
He is also close with head football coach Ed Orgeron, who threw his support behind the governor during Edwards’ hotly-contested re-election bid last year.
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The governor said he hopes an investigation by LSU can “get to the bottom” of the allegations raised in the USA Today story.
In a statement, Edwards added, “If this investigation finds any wrongdoing or concludes that administrators or other LSU officials willfully turned a blind eye to credible reports of violence or misconduct, there should be significant consequences.”
Tom Galligan, LSU’s interim president, who is in the running for the permanent top job at the school, sent a lengthy note to students and faculty Thursday where he also called the allegations “deeply troubling.” He said the school commissioned the law firm Husch Blackwell to conduct a review of the school’s Title XI policies and procedures, and the investigation should conclude in “early spring,” producing a public report.
“We will deal swiftly and appropriately if the findings show indifference or mishandling of cases on the part of anyone at LSU,” Galligan said. “In the meantime, we will continue to investigate every report of violence or sexual abuse, and we will hold those responsible accountable.”
USA Today is also fighting LSU in court over public records the school has refused to release. The paper said after months of stonewalling, the school turned over remaining pages of a police report Wednesday to a woman at the center of the investigation, but that LSU redacted the names of nearly everyone involved. A hearing is set in the 19th Judicial District Monday.