Seven women filed a federal class-action lawsuit against LSU and its leadership Monday, with the university’s former president and athletic director, as well as its athletic fundraising group, among those named as defendants, according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by ESPN.
According to the 118-page document, the women attended the Baton Rouge campus at some point from 2013 to 2021, and “were victims of sex-based discrimination, including rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and/or stalking, perpetrated by male LSU students.”
The women include three former LSU tennis players, two former student workers in the football recruiting office, a former student and a current student. They allege “a conspiracy” by the defendants to keep them quiet and “deprive them of their constitutional and federal rights in order to protect the reputation and income of LSU athletics.”
They are seeking more than $5 million in damages, plus court costs.
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The lawsuit states that the majority of the women weren’t able to report their incidents to the university’s Title IX office “because LSU employees discouraged or even overtly prevented them from doing so.” The document, first obtained by USA Today, states the women who were able to file complaints with the Title IX office “were ignored and their complaints were not appropriately investigated or addressed. Some plaintiffs experienced unlawful retaliation after attempting to report sex-based discrimination.”
On Monday, LSU vice president of communications and university relations Jim Sabourin provided the following statement to ESPN: “We have only just been made aware of the lawsuit through media stories, and therefore can’t comment on something we have yet to review. Instead, we are focused on taking actions to ensure that we create a campus that is safe, just and worthy of the trust that has been placed in us.”
Defendants named in the lawsuit include former athletic director Joe Alleva and six current athletic department officials: executive deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry; senior associate athletic director Miriam Segar; women’s tennis coaches Julia and Mike Sell; football recruiting director Sharon Lewis; and assistant director of recruiting operations Keava Soil-Cormier. Also named are the LSU board of supervisors and former university president F. King Alexander, who last month resigned as president of Oregon State amid backlash from his role at LSU.
The lawsuit alleges that LSU, its athletic department and the Tiger Athletic Foundation “funded and implemented a purposefully deficient sexual misconduct and Title IX reporting scheme” separate from the university’s official Title IX office to keep legitimate sexual assault claims within the athletic department.
“This scheme stymied LSU’s overall Title IX reporting system, successfully insulated coaches and players within LSU’s athletic programs from legitimate sexual assault claims, and allowed the programs to continue operating unhindered to reach levels of success the program wouldn’t have reached otherwise,” it states.
Because it is a class-action lawsuit, any others who allege they were hurt by a systemic failure by LSU to comply with Title IX from 2013 to the present can potentially join as plaintiffs.
According to USA Today, attorneys for the women said that could include thousands of current and former students.
“Until the priorities shift back to the mission of this university, the flagship school of Louisiana, to educate and support young people in their quest to better themselves, we will not stop the quest for change,” Karen Truszkowski of Temperance Legal Group, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement obtained by ESPN.
This is the second lawsuit filed this month against LSU and its leadership.
Lewis earlier filed a federal racketeering lawsuit accusing university officials of retaliating against her for reporting racist remarks and inappropriate sexual behavior by former coach Les Miles. The lawsuit also accuses LSU officials of working with a law firm to cover up allegations against Miles, including one that he engaged in “explicit sex acts” with a student. Miles and his attorney have denied any wrongdoing.
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