LSU is accused of covering up sexual misconduct, domestic violence and creating a “culture of silence.”
A new lawsuit filed by seven women Monday alleges LSU leadership, the school’s athletic fundraising arm and several top administrators conspired to cover up sexual misconduct and dating violence, according to USA Today’s Nancy Armour and Kenny Jacoby. The report has been confirmed by The Advocate’s Andrea Gallo.
The 124-page lawsuit obtained by USA Today also claims the university discriminated against female students and deprived them of their rights. The lawsuit was filed by former LSU tennis players Abby Owens, Jade Lewis and Kennan Johnson; former LSU Athletic Department student workers Samantha Brennan and Calise Richardson; and LSU senior Elisabeth Andries, according to The Advocate.
The defendants are listed as LSU Board of Supervisors, Tiger Athletic Foundation, former LSU President F. King Alexander, former LSU Human Resources Director A.G. Monaco, former LSU Title IX Coordinator Jennie Stewart, LSU’s recent Associate Dean of Students Jonathan Sanders, Assistant Dean of Students Tracy Blanchard and Senior Assistant General Counsel Jim Marchand.
According to The Advocate, athletic department officials named as defendants include former Athletic Director Joe Alleva, Executive Deputy Athletic Director Verge Ausberry, Senior Associate Athletic Director Miriam Segar, Associate Athletic Director Sharon Lewis, tennis coaches Michael and Julia Sell and Assistant Director of Recruiting Keava Soil-Cormier.
The plaintiffs accuse the university of prioritizing its reputation and football program over their safety and creating a “culture of silence” when it came to reporting Title IX offenses. They are also seeking $5 million in damages plus court costs and a permanent injunction “requiring compliance with Title IX and recurring external audits of LSU’s Title IX compliance,” according to The Advocate.
The lawsuit claims that LSU discriminated against and retaliated when women would try to report rape, domestic violence, and other campus problems and referenced the report from the law firm Husch Blackwell that LSU had widespread Title IX failures.
Jim Sabourin, LSU’s vice president of strategic communications, said he had just learned of the lawsuit and needed to review it before commenting Monday.
“We are focused on taking actions to ensure that we create a campus that is safe, just and worthy of the trust that has been placed in us,” Sabourin said in a statement.
This lawsuit comes in the wake of the Husch Blackwell report and LSU banning former star running back Derrius Guice from the athletic program. Owens said Guice raped her in 2016 and the lawsuit alleges that Owens’s father told coach Sell about the rape but she did not believe it. Brennan also claimed that she met Guice one night at a bar and she woke up the next morning in her apartment undressed with his wallet on her couch and was unable to remember what happened.
She later learned that Guice had taken a nude photo of her that night and it had been shared with members of the football team. In both situations, neither heard from LSU’s Title IX office even after reporting it.
Guice was also friends with Richardson and slept at her apartment one night, and attempted to rape her the next morning, the lawsuit claims. Richardson yelled at him to stop then he threatened to ruin her life. Richardson attempted to report the incident to Soil-Cormier, who responded by asking “why Richardson would let Guice in her room if she did not want to have sex with him,” the lawsuit says.
Former LSU coach Les Miles parted ways with Kansas in March after a probe into his time in Baton Rouge became public. In a 2013 investigation, Miles was accused of texting female student workers on a burner phone, driving them alone to his condo and kissing a student on at least one occasion.
The investigation found that Miles didn’t have sexual relationships with the women, but he was prohibited from hiring football operations or athletic department student employees and ordered him not to be alone with said employees by the school.