LSU administrator charged with giving light sentences to attackers
A Louisiana State University official tasked with disciplining students for Title IX violations related to, among other things, sexual assault, domestic violence and harassment, has been charged with meting out the lightest possible sentences, whatever regardless of the seriousness of the crimes.
Jonathan Sanders, associate dean of students at LSU and director of student advocacy and accountability, has come under scrutiny after law firm Husch Blackwell released a searing 148-page report earlier this month, detailing how the university has handled complaints of sexual misconduct.
Detailed reports from USA Today, which pushed back against LSU in November to hire the law firm to conduct a $100,000 independent audit of its handling of Title IX complaints, found that in nearly 60% of cases referred to Sanders since 2017, he has taken disciplinary actions that have allowed violators to continue their classes without interruption, instead of suspending or expelling them.
Jonathan Sanders, director of student advocacy and accountability at LSU, comes under scrutiny over lenient penalties for Title IX offenders, including sex offenders, stalkers and bullies
Law firm Husch Blackwell released a scathing 148-page report earlier this month criticizing LSU’s handling of sexual misconduct complaints
Of the 46 Title IX offenders facing allegations of rape, harassment, sexual assault and domestic violence who have appeared before Sanders in the past four school years, only one has been expelled from LSU.
The only student to be expelled on Sanders’ watch was former LSU wide receiver Drake Davis, who in 2019 pleaded guilty to two counts of battery on a dating partner for beating up his tennis player girlfriend. Jade Lewis.
Davis was expelled from LSU 10 months after dropping out of college — and four months after being convicted in state court.
Several victims of abuse or misconduct have accused Sanders of exacerbating their trauma by questioning the veracity of their claims – asking a student what she was wearing the night she was raped while unconscious – and disciplining another for minor housing violations, such as having a candle or a bottle of wine on campus.
After the scathing report was released, LSU suspended executive assistant athletic director Verge Ausberry 30 days and senior associate athletic director Miriam Segar 21 days without pay, and ordered the two to undergo sexual violence training for their handling of complaints. , but Sanders escaped punishment.
Of the 46 Title IX offenders who have preceded Sanders in the past four school years, only one has been kicked out of LSU: former catcher Drake Davis, who was convicted in 2019 of assaulting his playing girlfriend. of tennis
Sanders defended his case at LSU, telling USA Today through a spokesperson that the punishments he meted out to sex offenders were harsher than those of his predecessor. He also questioned some of the report’s findings, accusing investigators of making mistakes in some cases and taking his remarks out of context.
Acting President Tom Galligan told a meeting of the LSU Board of Supervisors two weeks ago that he seeks fairness in discipline. Galligan pointed out that the independent report concluded that failures in responding to complaints of sexual misconduct at LSU stem in large part from ambiguous policies and a lack of resources for “overworked” employees tasked with handling such matters.
Asked later by USA Today to comment on Sanders’ future at LSU, where he has worked in various capacities since 2006, in light of the excoriating report, Galligan replied, “we’ll look into that.”
The outlet reported that under Sanders, 18 students were suspended, 14 were placed on probation, 11 others received deferred suspensions and two others received warnings, likely allowing them to continue in their classes.
Sanders told Husch Blackwell investigators that at LSU, sanctions are issued according to an “outcome guide,” which provides a range of disciplinary outcomes.
The report noted that unlike other comparable academic institutions, which outline potential penalties for sexual misconduct based on the seriousness of the alleged conduct and other factors, such as acknowledgment of perpetrator responsibility and wishes of the victim, the penalties section of the LSA recommends discipline based on the number of violations.
LSU student Elizabeth Andries, who was groped on a bus by a fraternity member, called Sanders’ sanctions against her attacker ‘worthless’ after the man was slapped with a delayed suspension and cleared to continue taking courses
For first violations of the majority of offenses, including sexual misconduct, harassment and harassment, the minimum penalty was probation or a deferred suspension, according to LSU’s 2020-21 results guide.
In at least one instance, Sanders chose a lighter punishment than what the university’s own sanctions rubric called for when he slapped a fraternity member found responsible for two sexual misconduct policy violations for having groped two female students on a bus with a deferred suspension, and allowed her to continue her studies.
The victims of the October 2016 assault, who publicly identified themselves as Caroline Schroeder and Elizabeth Andries, were outraged by Sanders’ sanctions, with Schroeder calling them “worthless”.
Andries expressed his frustration with Sanders in an interview with Husch Blackwell.
‘He . . . makes you go through the whole report again and tries to find . . . inaccuracies or something. I don’t know what it was used for,” she said in the report. ‘He was like, ‘so one time you said you were in the back of the bus and the other time you said you were in the middle of the back, so which one was that?’ And I was, like, I don’t think that matters.
Andries also said that during her conversation with Sanders, he asked her if she was on drugs at the time of the assault.
Acting President Tom Galligan issued a public apology to the victims and said he intends to strengthen how the university handles complaints of sexual misconduct
“And I was like, would it have mattered at this point? And he was just like, well, I find it hard to believe you were on a public bus with people,” she recounted. “And I was like, well, me too.”
The woman also claimed that she shared with Sanders that a friend of hers had also been assaulted by the same fraternity member, but the administrator never contacted this woman – a claim Sanders denied to USA. Today.
Husch Blackwell said in the report that, based on LSU’s earnings guide, Sanders should have at least suspended the fraternity member because he was found responsible for two separate sexual misconduct violations.
The comprehensive report also highlighted Sanders’ response to the Drake Davis case, finding her “too passive.”
He criticized the LSU official for accusing Lewis, a victim of the Davis beating, of housing rule violations related to the presence of a candle and wine in his on-campus apartment.
Sanders told Husch Blackwell that holding Lewis accountable for breaching Residential Life policies was a way of trying to “engage” with her, “trying to remedy the behavior with Drake.” Husch Blackwell called this approach “misguided”.
The report said: ‘Disciplining a victim of dating violence for having a candle in her bedroom – which was discovered during an investigation into a report of dating violence – sends a disturbing message to victims of abuse and of misconduct that does not encourage reporting to the University.’
Attorney Scott Schneider, who led Husch Blackwell’s review, said that while LSU doesn’t have a monopoly on the mishandling of sexual misconduct cases, the university “has been very slow to develop policies, infrastructure and personnel that were really needed” to ensure compliance with federal laws. Title IX Laws. These laws largely address gender equity in education and also apply to cases of sexual violence or harassment in educational institutions.
Acting President Galligan issued a public apology to the victims and said he intends to act on the report’s 18 recommendations on how to strengthen how the university handles complaints of sexual misconduct at campus-wide. These recommendations called for everything from clarification of policies and protocols to increased staffing and departmental reorganizations.