The U.S. Department of Education has launched a far-reaching investigation into Louisiana State University’s compliance with federal campus safety laws, less than three months after a USA TODAY investigation uncovered widespread mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations by the university’s athletic department and broader administration.
The investigation will begin immediately and focus in part on LSU athletics and Greek life, a Department of Education official wrote in a Feb. 2 letter to LSU Interim President Tom Galligan that was obtained by USA TODAY. The letter said that the department had received complaints alleging “a pattern of conduct that resulted in serious violations of the Clery Act,” a 1990 federal law aimed at transparency around campus crime policy and statistics.
Recent media coverage of the school contributed to its concerns, wrote Lisa Bureau, an acting director with the department’s enforcement and consumer protection unit.
The Advocate first reported on the investigation Friday.
The objective of the investigation is to “further assess the nature and extent of any violations” and “ensure that effective remedial action is taken, as needed,” the letter said. LSU officials can expect to be “in regular contact with” department officials throughout the review. At its conclusion, the department will issue any preliminary findings of violations and recommendations, as well as prepare a written report. The investigation is open-ended, with no estimated completion date.
“Taken together, our analysis of the complaints and media accounts raise serious concerns about LSU’s compliance and the effects that any violations may have on victims of crime and the accuracy and completeness of the University’s crime statistics and other campus safety information,” Bureau wrote.
As part of the probe, the department is seeking access to employees for interviews and a trove of records, including incident reports and complaints regarding “the alleged misconduct of any kind by Greek life organizations, student athletes,” and other recognized student groups from 2016 to 2019.
Other records sought include crime statistics, arrest logs, referrals for disciplinary actions for drug, liquor and weapons offenses, police department policies and procedures, and sexual assault and dating violence training and prevention program materials.
“This week, LSU was notified that the U.S. Department of Education would be conducting a campus crime program review related to Clery Act requirements,” said LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard in a statement. “Campus safety and the well being of those at LSU is always our priority, and following Clery guidelines for reporting and notifying the campus community is an important part of crime prevention that we take extremely seriously.”
LSU has been under fire for its mishandling of sexual misconduct complaints since August, when a USA TODAY investigation revealed that school officials had turned a blind eye toward two students’ rape allegations against former star running back Derrius Guice, when he was a freshman with the team.
Two months later, a second USA TODAY investigation revealed that LSU’s failure to adequately address sexual misconduct went beyond Guice. Officials in the university’s athletic department and Title IX office had repeatedly ignored complaints against abusers, denied victims’ requests for protections and subjected them to further harm by known perpetrators.
In response to the article, representatives from more than a dozen LSU student groups called for the resignation of anyone who has mishandled Title IX complaints, and roughly 200 students marched in protest on LSU’s campus. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards called for an independent investigation into the school.
Amid the fallout, Galligan acknowledged LSU’s failings in a statement to students, apologized and announced the school had hired an outside law firm, Husch Blackwell, to review its Title IX procedures. The review is expected to cover “who knew what and when” in its handling of roughly 60 individual case files, including those first made public by USA TODAY, Galligan said. That review, which focuses on cases from the years 2016 to 2018, is scheduled to conclude later this month.
In December, USA TODAY uncovered a 2018 report by Louisiana State University’s lead Title IX investigator, which showed that top athletic department administrators had skirted the school’s sexual misconduct policies by keeping allegations against athletes in house. Yet LSU did nothing to correct the problem at the time, USA TODAY found.