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Husch Blackwell Report Describes Disturbing Culture of Sex Discrimination at LSU

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The Title IX violations were deep and pervasive

Miles was accused of misconduct in 2013
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The big news for LSU Athletics this weekend had nothing to do with anything which happened on the field of play.

Husch Blackwell release its final findings of its Title IX review on Friday, and as promised, the LSU administration made the report fully public. The full report can be found here. (PDF)

AD Scott Woodward accompanied the release of the report with his own letter, available on LSU’s webpage. It doesn’t attempt to minimize the report though it does subtly cast the blame on the prior administration:

As just one part of a greater institution, it is important that we, as an athletics department, work with the University to move forward to make our campus safe for everyone. I want you to know that we fully support the recommendations suggested by Husch Blackwell and the steps taken by President Galligan to address the shortcomings of the past and to invest resources into strengthening University structures. Working in lockstep with the University, we will continue to seek ways to ensure that all incidents involving athletics are reported, survivors supported, and perpetrators held accountable for their actions.

Throughout this challenging year, LSU Athletics has spent significant time evaluating the priorities of our athletics program. As part of our examination, we recognized that we needed a stronger commitment to staff, coach, and student athlete training and education; a renewed emphasis on fostering a healthy, respectful climate; improved accountability across the board; and increased collaboration with our campus and our community partners. Those priorities have resulted in an investment in staff, resources and comprehensive education.

The day prior, thanks to a public records request, the final report on the investigation into Les Miles’ behavior and potential harassment of two individuals identified as Students No. 1 and 2 was also released. (PDF)

That report alleged that Miles kissed Student No. 2 without her consent, a charge he denied. The investigation, conducted by LSU’s outside counsel in 2013, ultimately found that Miles had exercised poor judgment, but that he had no violated any law or contractual provision. The report found:

We do not believe under existing law and the terms of the contract there is cause to discipline and/or terminate the contract. Further complicating the situation is the fact that Student No’ 2 is adamant that her identity remain confidential and she would likely be an unwilling witness if contested issues arose related to LSU’s relationship with XXX.

Miles had to attend sexual harassment training and re-sign documents of compliance, but he was not subjected to further discipline, having already been ordered by Joe Alleva that he could not have one-on-one contact with any student employees.

The report was kept confidential at the request of Miles and his accusers. According to the Husch Blackwell Report, Joe Alleva wished to fire Miles and publicly leak the details of this 2013 report, as public opinion would be on their side.

The Husch Blackwell Report is an in-depth review of LSU’s Title IX policies and the events alleged in the USA Today reports. The report is highly critical of LSU’s policies (And of the 2013 report on Miles, calling it a conflict of interest, while disagreeing with its findings of no harassment).

The report quotes an anonymous football coach regarding the culture at LSU regarding sexual misconduct:

It just baffles me, though, that for so long, this went on and that kinda became the normal, right? And you just don’t talk about it and you don’t say anything, you just kinda go, ‘cuz we’re protecting LSU, we’re protecting our brand, we’re protecting our head coach, we’re protecting this, we love LSU so we’re gonna be loyal to LSU so we’re gonna do what we can to help it and try to fix it. But you know, nobody wants a big blowup to where oh, there’s a big scandal, you know? I always felt like we always had to be protective, you know? You want to protect LSU. You don’t want there to be any big blowup or scandal or, you know, much less anything like that, right?

******

It just became normal, which is sick now that you think about it. The fact that that became normal to us was crazy, you know? But it was always, like, nobody ever really wanted to . . . rock the boat . . . and then—poor Sharon [Lewis] though. I mean, like I said, she had most of the brunt of it because she was over the girls. . . .We were so beat down and caught up in that mess, we didn’t realize how bad we were, you know?! That’s what upsets me.

Those are damning quotes. The worst finding is that it turns out that LSU employed just one Title IX investigator. Not for the Baton Rouge campus, which would be outrageous in its own right, but the entire LSU system. LSU created a system of noncompliance with Title IX and even if there were well-intentioned people within the system, they did not know the proper procedures for reporting Title IX complaints.

Despite its finding, Husch Blackwell made the controversial decision not to recommend any firings or internal discipline. It’s logic is quoted below:

Before outlining our recommendations, we want to directly address a sentiment expressed in community interviews regarding our work, namely, that if this report does not recommend “firing people,” an important part of the University community will be disappointed. We understand the sentiment. In drafting this report, we have been guided by the University’s desire for us to provide the community with a truthful account of the University’s handling of various Title IX matters. When mistakes were made by University employees, we have said so throughout this report. When we have concerns, we have identified them. With that said, we believe it would be inappropriate for us to tell the University who it should or should not discipline. Rather, the leadership of the University should take this report and decide what, if any, discipline is warranted for employees. If the leadership of the University decides to discipline employees, one of the important lessons from this review is that institutional policies and processes should be followed. In addition, those employees should be entitled to full due process protections, including the ability to say this review “got it wrong.”

The report then made eighteen recommendations for LSU to comply with Title IX and improve its woeful culture regarding sexual assault and harassment. Most notably, it involves beefing up the Title IX compliance office not just for athletics, but for all of the LSU system.

Point #17 goes to the overall goal of this report:

All of the changes recommended above are designed with three broad goals in mind:

(a) improve the institutional response to reports of sex discrimination from the perspective of reporters, respondents, and other impacted third parties;

(b) create a climate where subjects of sex discrimination feel supported and are aware of the full range of university options and resources; and

(c) improve the University’s overall climate around sex discrimination.

These are laudable goals and the coming days and months will reveal whether these are new principles for LSU or mere platitudes.

We will have more on the report and its fallout as the story develops and once we have a chance to read and interpret all of the report as well as see how LSU implements the recommendations.