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USA Today investigation spotlights failures in college response to complaints

ul
Posted at 11:58 AM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 13:33:33-04

A broad, in-depth investigation by the USA Today network was published today, highlighting failures of Louisiana universities to deal with allegations of sexual assault.

The USA Today investigation was based on a review of case files, a trove of documents, emails and other public records, and interviews with current and former prosecutors, police officers, lawmakers, university officials and seven women who alleged sexual assaults, the story reports.

They focused on one man, who had been a student at LSU, UL and Louisiana Tech. There were complaints of sexual assault against him at each institution, but the newspaper found that in each case, the institutions failed to share relevant information with each other, leaving women on their campuses without warning and potentially at risk, the newspaper reports.

The man has never been charged with a sex crime, and in every instance he told police that the allegations against him are false, the newspaper reports.

His case, however, illustrates how universities continue to struggle with the most basic response to sexual assault allegations. Over and over when women came forward about the man, college officials and police didn’t communicate, didn’t convey critical information, and didn’t connect the dots on a pattern that might have shaped how they pursued the allegations, USA Today reports.

The investigation tells the man's story through the filter of Act 172, a law that was supposed to set up requirements that would ensure Louisiana's universities and police shared information about sexual assault.

To read the story, click here.

We've reached out to UL and the Lafayette Police Department, both of which were prominently mentioned in the piece, for comment.

UL sent us a copy of the letter sent to the University's students and faculty today:

Dear students, faculty and staff members,

As you may be aware, a news outlet published a story this morning that focused on a former student who faced allegations of sexual misconduct while attending several universities in our state, including UL Lafayette.

The University cooperated extensively with the publication over the past several months. We answered questions thoroughly and provided requested public records. We believe in transparency, and our responsiveness to inquiries reflected that belief.

The story is nonetheless troubling. Though the University followed state and federal laws and policies as they existed at the time, the article highlights critical communication gaps that need to be addressed.

Current, ongoing discussions in the Louisiana Legislature will likely result in further reforms as to how higher education institutions communicate allegations of sexual misconduct.

The University, along with our fellow University of Louisiana System institutions, has been actively engaged in these discussions. We will continue to do so because we fully support these efforts.

But our work is not confined to legislation alone. We must continue to improve programs and initiatives that prevent this misconduct from occurring.

The University takes all allegations of sexual assault and misconduct seriously. Our commitment to creating a living, learning and working environment where every member of our campus community has their rights respected, and feels safe, is absolute.

Sincerely,

Dr. Joseph Savoie
President