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State lawmakers: LSU scandal could affect university’s budget

(The Center Square) – LSU could face cuts to its share of the state budget if university officials can’t show they are handling sexual misconduct allegations properly, legislators said Friday.

The Senate Select Committee on Women and Children, which held a lengthy hearing on the subject last week, plans to take up the issue again March 26.

Among the witnesses members want to question is Oregon State University President F. King Alexander, who is on probation at his current job while officials there investigate how he handled complaints when he led LSU. Current and former athletics officials and members of the university’s oversight board also are on the list.

“We do have the power to subpoena them to come,” said state Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge.

Media investigations prompted LSU to hire a law firm to look into sexual misconduct, harassment and discrimination complaints under federal Title IX laws. The report indicated allegations were not handled properly.

The University of Kansas fired head football coach Les Miles after the report described Miles’ alleged inappropriate behavior with students during his time at LSU. LSU suspended without pay Executive Deputy Athletic Director Verge Ausberry for 30 days and Senior Associate Athletic Director Miriam Segar for 21 days, but no one at LSU has been fired after the report’s release.

A number of legislators have expressed outrage that no one has been fired over the scandal. Gov. John Bel Edwards, who appoints the university’s Board of Supervisors, said Thursday the report showed “people needed to be fired.”

“But over the passage of time, the people who most obviously needed to be fired are no longer there,” he said. “I believe what was done by LSU was reasonable in light of all the information that I was able to gather from that report.”

Legislators said Friday they would consider changes to a state law meant to protect students but stressed LSU officials’ behavior was inappropriate even under current law.

Asked about whether legislators might use their control of the state’s purse strings as a tool to hold the school accountable, they said that was a possibility.

“If individuals decide not to come and not to participate when we ask them to come, that is definitely going to have some level of repercussions when they come before committees such as finance, appropriations and education,” Barrow said.

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.