Sam Hanna Jr.

The first law of holes says, when you've dug a hole that you can't get out of, stop digging.

A reasonable individual would have come to the conclusion long ago that LSU has a problem on its hands. A third-party investigation exposed the university for the turning the other cheek when a prominent football player or two were accused of sexual misconduct, or worse, with a number of co-eds. The office on the campus that's in charge of entertaining allegations of discrimination and sexual harassment against students was woefully underfunded, woefully understaffed and was routinely ignored by the decision makers at the university.

Looming large in the background was a former head football coach who apparently was chastised some eight years ago for getting a little too handsy and a little too chummy with some female student workers in his office. The whole incident, or incidents, was kept quiet. Even the LSU Board of Supervisors supposedly knew nothing about it, except for three board members who now say they were sworn to secrecy by the university's lawyers. How convenient.

Along the way, the chancellor at the LSU medical school in Shreveport, Dr. Ghali E. Ghali, found himself at the center of this ever-expanding scandal when the The (Baton Rouge) Advocate reported LSU was in possession of a report or two that contained allegations of sexual discrimination and other sordid matters by Ghali which could be perceived as sexual harassment.

The Advocate's story about Ghali appeared not to cause a ripple, but the relative calm among the decision makers at LSU was contradicted by LSU's refusal to release the reports on Ghali. It seems as if LSU officials were taking instructions from someone from above who wanted it all to go away.

The absence of an uproar over the report on Ghali didn't stop the chattering class in Baton Rouge and elsewhere around the state from opining that Ghali's days as chancellor at the medical school were numbered. The scuttlebutt reached a fever pitch when the Board of Supervisors announced it would conduct its April meeting on a Saturday of all days and that the board might meet in executive session for a “discussion of personnel matters.”

The LSU board sneaked off into an executive session alright — for three hours — but when it reemerged from its private set-to, Ghali was still standing. The board took no action.

Just 48 hours later, The Advocate was back with a bombshell of a news report outlining a handful of complaints against Ghali filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which obviously forced LSU to suspend Ghali by Monday night. It seems some 16 students at the LSU medical school in Shreveport reported they were the victims of sexual harassment by an administrative faculty member and that the dean of admissions required attractive female applicants and students to write book reports on pornographic stories. Worse, the employees at the medical school who were responsible for fielding sexual harassment complaints from students were retaliated against by Ghali, apparently for even taking the complaints in the first place.

Meanwhile, The Advocate reported the sexual harassment complaints had been filed with LSU's Title IX office weeks ago. That would be the same Title IX office that supposedly is in charge of handling all sexual harassment complaints filed by students. One can only imagine what the Title IX office personnel did with them.

Noticeably absent from this discussion about Ghali is Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat whose party faithful have perfected the art of painting any man accused of sexual misconduct as guilty as charged before any evidence rears its head. To date, Edwards has not commented on the allegations against Ghali and has only offered a few broad statements about his disgust with all of the talk about sexual harassment and such at LSU's athletic department. At some point, the governor must set aside his own wants, wishes and desires and tell us where he stands.

It's worth noting that some two years ago when Ghali's contract as chancellor of the medical school was up for renewal before the LSU board, numerous sources say some board members were inclined to show Ghali the door but Edwards intervened on Ghali's behalf. And Ghali survived. That's important because several of the sexual harassment complaints against Ghali that were filed with the EEOC predate 2019, or before Edwards came to Ghali's rescue. Moreover, we're still in the dark about what the two reports received by the LSU board say about the allegations against Ghali.

All of which raises the proverbial question: What did Edwards know about Ghali and the allegations against him and when did he find out?

Before anyone pops off with a silly remark about it being the LSU board's responsibility to hire and fire chancellors, we must all remind ourselves that we live in Louisiana. In Louisiana, the governor hires and fires the LSU board.

Trust me. If Edwards wanted the LSU board to fire Ghali at its meeting this past weekend, Ghali would be looking for a job today.

Sam Hanna Jr. can be reached by phone at 318-805-8158 or e-mail at samhannajr@samhannajr.com.

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