Yesterday, the USA Today dropped a bombshell on LSU, alleging its casual indifference to sexual assaults occurring on campus. It’s a disturbing read, and if you haven’t already, you should read the whole thing right now.
If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, the allegations can be boiled down to this top line:
LSU’s failure to adequately address sexual misconduct goes beyond one star running back, a USA TODAY investigation found. Officials in the university’s athletic department and broader administration repeatedly have ignored complaints against abusers, denied victims’ requests for protections and subjected them to further harm by known perpetrators.
At least seven LSU officials had direct knowledge that wide receiver Drake Davis was physically abusing his girlfriend, a different LSU women’s tennis player, but they sat on the information for months, while Davis continued to assault and strangle her. In another case, the school determined that a fraternity member had sexually assaulted two women, but it refused to move him out of classes he shared with one of them and altogether ignored an allegation against him by a third female student.
USA TODAY also found three cases in which, rather than expelling or suspending male students found responsible for sexual assault, LSU allowed them to stay on campus. The men, non-athletes, received “deferred suspensions,” a probationary period during which they must stay out of trouble.
I think this gets to the core of the article. Really, this isn’t an article about the failures of LSU football, though there are certainly failures to talk about, but this is about using the football team to talk about the failures of LSU as a whole. And people wouldn’t give a good goddamn about the three cases involving non-athletes above if there wasn’t the juicy hook of LSU football to draw you in.
The article closes with the story of Elisabeth Andries, an engineering major, trying to pursue some measure of justice against her alleged attacker, a non-athlete. At every turn, the school reportedly delayed the matter and failed to protect the alleged victim until the women would get frustrated and give up.
It’s a pretty gross story and a near textbook example of the school’s Title IX violations. LSU administrators were casually indifferent at best, grossly negligent at worst, in investigating a sexual assault on its campus by one of its students.
This isn’t a story about LSU football, it’s a story about LSU, the university. And the university simply failed to the victims of sexual abuse through its callous indifference. Football is the flashy object which gets all of our attention, but the story is bigger, and worse, than that.
This release by a group of my @lsu @ManshipSchool students was ignored at the time, but seems to have some relevance today. They reported in March 2019 that their research found that "LSU has only expelled one student for sexual assault over the last ten years." pic.twitter.com/IYsUzaxsig— Robert Mann (@RTMannJr) November 16, 2020
In light of this article, and how the process works at LSU, I’m stunned its even one person. The fact that this is a university-wide problem, not a sports-specific problem, makes this more horrifying, not less so.
LSU is currently searching for a new president, and this needs to be the most important item on the agenda for a new hire. How on earth is LSU going to reform its Title IX compliance, not just from a policy standpoint, but from a cultural standpoint. Because the current culture is garbage.
This is a sports site, so I guess I have to deal with the allegations in regards to the football team. And those are not quite as strong, though I don’t want that to detract from the seriousness of the overall issues at LSU, which are deep and pervasive.
The Derrius Guice story was already in the public domain and it is… well, it’s awful. There’s no justifying any of it. It also happened in 2016, and since then, LSU has changed its football coach (Les Miles), athletic director (Joe Alleva), and its university president (F King Alexander). This doesn’t absolve LSU as an institution, but it is worth noting that all of the people in charge are gone.
But when they left, did anything change?
This brings us to the case of Drake Davis, the central part of the article. And it paints a story of an athletic department which bent over backwards to bury its head in the sand regarding the escalating violence of a heralded recruit.
Davis punched a tennis player in the stomach in May of 2017. The woman told a team trainer, Donavon White, about the incident and her father reported the incident to tennis coach Mike Sell. Nothing happened, and no formal report was filed.
On April 25, 2018, the tennis player informed White, senior athletic trainer Micki Collins, and senior associate AD Miriam Segar of another incident with Davis. Segar filed a Title IX report. This is the proper procedure in this instance, but it was slightly undone that LSU investigators did not interview Davis for more than two months.
At this point, things accelerated. There was another incident on June 18 and a hearing on July 11, which Mickey Joseph attended in accordance with the rules. Drake Davis was arrested on charges stemming from these incidents on August 18. He was arrested again on September 19, this for pornography involving juveniles.
Drake Davis never played football for LSU again, but he was not expelled from LSU until July of 2019.
Now, Drake Davis is a pretty awful human being in this telling, but how culpable is LSU football? The school almost certainly should have done something in 2017, but it is an open question whether the football program knew anything about it, though given his sharp reduction in playing time in 2017, they certainly knew something was up.
Davis exchanged texts with Verge Ausberry in April of 2018, which is certainly a bad look for Ausberry, but it also fits a timeline in which LSU filed its Title IX report. Maybe the wheels of justice didn’t spin fast enough, but the Title IX report formed the basis of arrest report in August. From filing the report in April, Davis was off campus for good less than five months later in September.
No one is throwing any parades about that, it’s not good enough. But it also falls well short of a total failure and complicity. The bigger issue is why did it take another year to formally expel Davis. Again, this goes to the bigger issue: this is a university-wide problem, not one specific to the football team.
The other incidents “remain largely secret,” and I don’t think it’s anybody’s responsibility to respond to conjecture. That seems to be trial by innuendo, and when we have actual facts to discuss, we shouldn’t waste time on arguing essentially from our biases on facts we don’t know.
So the long and the short of it is this… what now? Ed Orgeron made a non committal answer yesterday. LSU is still looking for a new university president.
But, by and large, these are not failures of the LSU football team. These are failures of the entire university, which is doing precious little in regards to sexual assault allegations, as required by Title IX. And that is unacceptable on every level.
People who may clamor for Orgeron’s head or some sort of sanction of the football team are completely missing the point. This is bigger than a football team or even the athletics department which again, did not cover itself in glory here.
This is about the school itself. And LSU failed.