Governor Edwards 'extremely troubled' by report LSU mishandled sexual violence accusations
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday he was "extremely troubled" by a USA TODAY investigation that found systemic mishandling of sexual misconduct and dating violence complaints by LSU.
"We have to take this very seriously and can't tolerate any instances where anyone might willfully turn a blind eye ... to allegations of this kind of abuse," Edwards said during a press conference.
But the governor stopped short of calling for specific firings until more investigation is done: "I'm not prepared to say any individual needs to be fired."
While Louisiana's governor doesn't directly control LSU, he or she appoints the members of the LSU Board of Supervisors that govern the flagship in Baton Rouge and its others campuses in the state.
Meanwhile, interim LSU President Tom Galligan, who is a candidate for the permanent job, sent out a public statement Thursday that came closer to admitting the school mishandled accusations of sexual violence from athletes and others.
"Words can’t express how deeply troubling it is to face the prospect that LSU may have mishandled alleged cases of abuse or sexual assault," he wrote. "We must admit those instances where we have not lived up to our high ideals; hold ourselves accountable; and commit to doing better in the future."
He also praised victims who came forward in the USA TODAY story: "I want to thank the victims who stepped forward in recent days to share incidents of abuse or sexual assault they have not previously reported or believe haven’t been handled properly at LSU. I can only imagine how difficult that has been for them, and I appreciate their courage, which is inspirational and provides us with the determination to do better."
Galligan said the school has hired a firm to conduct an independent review that should be complete by spring. He said the report will be available to the public.
"We will deal swiftly and appropriately if the findings show indifference or mishandling of cases on the part of anyone at LSU," he said.
A USA TODAY investigation published Monday found officials in the university’s athletic department and broader administration repeatedly have ignored complaints against abusers, denied victims’ requests for protection and subjected them to further harm by known perpetrators.
At least nine football players have been reported to police for accusations of sexual misconduct and dating violence since coach Ed Orgeron took over the team four years ago, records show. The university is known to have disciplined only two of them, and one – former wide receiver Drake Davis – was not expelled until four months after he was convicted of physically abusing his former girlfriend.
There has been an outcry from faculty and students on social media and a protest is scheduled Friday afternoon.
USA Today reporters Kenny Jacoby, Nancy Armour and Jessica Luther contributed to this report.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.