Editorial Roundup: Louisiana

The Advocate. October 21, 2021.

Editorial: LSU acts quickly in sexual misconduct case in French Studies. But not in Athletics.

LSU acted swiftly in removing Adelaide Russo as chair of the Department of French Studies after six women filed a lawsuit accusing the school of failing to properly investigate complaints of sexual misconduct against a former graduate student from France.

Russo defended former graduate student Edouard d’Espalungue d’Arros and allowed him to work directly with undergraduates despite d’Espalungue being arrested in 2018 and later charged with third-degree rape, according to the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, over in the Athletic Department, executive deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry is earning half a million dollars a year even though he failed to report a domestic assault by a member of the football team.

Ausberry in 2018 received a text from wide receiver Drake Davis in which Davis said he had a dispute with his girlfriend and hit her; when Ausberry called Davis, the football player said he had not hit his girlfriend. Davis went on to abuse his girlfriend for several more months, breaking into her apartment and nearly strangling her one night.

Ausberry got a big raise — his salary was doubled with the stroke of a pen — even though LSU knew he had fumbled the Davis case and the school had been warned by East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III about widespread problems with reporting of assaults and harassment on campus.

Another Athletic Department employee, senior associate athletic director Miriam Segar made a mistake in 2016 by keeping former star running back Derrius Guice’s name off a report of a rape. “Because of this omission, when Guice was accused of subsequent misconduct by other students … this initial report was not considered or revisited,” according to a report by the Husch Blackwell law firm released over the winter. Guice has denied the accusations and has not been charged.

The man in charge of LSU at the time, interim president Tom Galligan, suspended Ausberry for a month and Segar for 21 days. When women on campus complained about the light punishment, Galligan banned Ausberry from the skybox at football games for the 2021 season — as if that would somehow prove that LSU means business when it comes to protecting women from harassment and abuse.

Ausberry and Segar now have a new boss, William F. Tate IV. But the freshly minted LSU president has shown no interest in revisiting the Ausberry or Segar cases.

In the d’Espalungue case, the removal of Russo is the first major move that LSU has taken in response to reports that officials both at LSU and in the criminal justice system failed to prevent the French national from sexually assaulting and harassing several women, despite repeated complaints about him. At least seven women — six connected to LSU — have reported that d’Espalungue raped, groped or sexually harassed them. He was allowed to return to France, which does extradite its own citizens.

LSU’s quick reaction in removing Russo is a hopeful sign that the school will stop looking the other way when senior officials fail to act on complaints of harassment or abuse.

But it will reinforce the idea that the rules do not apply to the Athletic Department.