Analysis: LSU athletics taking on too much water in its sexual misconduct scandal
BATON ROUGE - There was a sinking feeling as LSU's attorney compared the school's restructuring of its process to handle sexual misconduct accusations to a boat on Thursday before the Louisiana Senate Select Committee on Women and Children.
"We're literally trying to build Noah's Ark starting at the keel," LSU attorney Winston DeCuir Jr. said to the committee, which held its third hearing as it continues to investigate a myriad of sexual accusations against former football players in recent years.
The Noah part is right on. DeCuir was alone as the committee members surrounded him and showered him with questions. All other LSU officials asked to appear before the committee abandoned the ship.
This was DeCuir's fault, though, as he had made sure none of the many various LSU personnel requested to give testimony at the hearing showed, including football coach Ed Orgeron, athletic director Scott Woodward, suspended associate athletic directors Miriam Segar and Verge Ausberry, Title IX coordinator Jennie Stewart and present and former members of LSU's Board of Supervisors.
They only wrote letters of testimony with no chance for follow-up questions, which was an option mistakenly given to them by the committee. The committee leaders incorrectly thought LSU would be forthright, which just is not in LSU's DNA, which is why LSU is in the hurricane it is in now.
DeCuir wanted no LSU personnel present because of their potential involvement in a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit revealed Tuesday by football office employee Sharon Lewis, who first reported sexual harassment by former football coach Les Miles to LSU officials in 2013.
Meanwhile, various accusations and reports of LSU's sordid sexual misconduct past have been raining on the school for more than 40 days and 40 nights like a Biblical plague. And actually longer than that.
"A few minutes ago you (DeCuir) said that somebody mentioned in a conversation that, 'Oh yeah, we went through this 10 or 11 years ago,' " Senator Beth Mizell of Franklinton said. "That just blows me away because we keep going through it. But you're putting a keel in, and nobody trusts the ship that you're building."
Apparently, this is not LSU's first sexual misconduct ark.
"The feeling that we get from what we've seen in that previous 10 years is rather than trying to fix it, you're going to ignore it," Mizell said. "So, you have this burden, not only of fixing it, but making us trust that the people that are driving that ship are worthy of being trusted again. That's the biggest obstacle, so we need transparency beyond belief! Because, I mean we've all seen bad actors, and there were no consequences whatsoever."
And Winston's Ark - aka LSU - took on criticism like water throughout the hearing from the committee, particularly if you are Segar or Ausberry.
This committee is hell-bent on seeing that Segar and Ausberry are fired, or that somebody is fired, particularly since no one at LSU has been fired since the voluminous Husch Blackwell report on LSU's mishandling of sexual misconduct accusations was released on March 6.
Two suspensions that have already been served is it.
"Heads need to roll," state senator Karen Peterson said. "And we're not just going to believe people's written statements. They have to be answerable to the people, particularly the courageous survivors who have come forward and been public. There are others who are scared to death, and you know why? Because they never see consequences when they do step up."
Peterson made a salient point that criticized one of Husch Blackwell's key conclusions - that LSU's Title IX office was not operating effectively because of limited staffing and overall systematic confusion. How convenient for that investigation to blame a building and not people.
"Even if all the systems didn't match up, and there was a little confusion as to whom (accusers) should call and report to, some of these people (Segar, Ausberry) fundamentally knew what they were doing in order not to have consequences for the actors - these sexual predators, assault predators," Peterson said.
State representative Aimee Freeman said LSU students continue to ask her when will LSU fire people involved in this scandal.
"I'm not in the business of hiring and firing people at LSU, and that's not what this committee is for," she said. "But I must state for the record that it looks horrible, and it brings down the confidence that students have in their school."
Freeman and Peterson may also soon learn that LSU's flawed system of handling serious sexual accusations was exactly how LSU planned it. It was designed to fail so as to frustrate the accusers with hopes they would eventually give up - or graduate. LSU acted similar to the Great Benefit insurance company in John Grisham's "The Rainmaker," if you will.
Well, now it's raining on LSU like never before. DeCuir needs to get that ark built fast, and in the meantime LSU does need to fire people.
Glenn Guilbeau covers LSU athletics for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @LSUBeatTweet. Please consider a digital subscription.