Louisiana’s top higher education policymaking board pledged today to tighten oversight and enforcement of college policies against sexual misconduct, in response to the independent Husch Blackwell report detailing widespread failures in LSU’s handling of student allegations of abuse.
Members of the Board of Regents say they intend to ensure the state’s four public college systems have established strong stances against sexual misconduct, enacted prevention programs, provide support services for students who allege misconduct and respond strongly to those claims.
“We’re going to have to flex our role in policymaking and enforcing our policy,” says board member Wilbert Pryor of Shreveport. “We’re going to have to put our foot down on our institutions.”
Board chairman Blake David and Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed sent college governing board leaders a list of questions asking for information about how they handle misconduct claims. They want answers by April 9.
“I do think this is a moment to recognize we have seen systemic failure,” Reed says. She pledges to look for ways to improve campus efforts to combat sexual misconduct and “to make sure we’re educating safely.”
The letter asks college system leaders to provide information about sexual misconduct policies, awareness programs and points of contact for reporting allegations. They want descriptions of Title IX offices, confirmation that all employment contracts include a morality clause, information about anti-hazing policies and details of athletic department policies against misconduct.
A 2015 law required a statewide policy for handling student sexual assault allegations and for bolstering prevention efforts. The Board of Regents enacted the policy, but the LSU report and testimony before state lawmakers indicates the school didn’t follow all the provisions.
“We cannot have phenomenal policy and not have steadfast enforcement,” Reed says.
UL System President Jim Henderson applauds the letter. But Henderson says that while LSU is currently singled out for criticism, “that’s not the extent of the problem” across campuses.
Louisiana state lawmakers, particularly female lawmakers, are currently pushing LSU to enact stronger punishment for remaining officials who, according to the independent report, were involved in bungling the university’s response to student allegations of abuse and assault. The lawmakers are planning another hearing on the report Friday.
The Board of Regents vowed to keep a focus on the issue.
“This is not going to be easy. This is not going to be a one-hour conversation and everybody’s off to do the right thing,” Reed says. Read the full story from The Associated Press