Former University of Louisiana at Lafayette softball players allege the university failed to investigate and correct instances of racism, sexual and gender discrimination, improper relationships between players and staff and unwanted touching by the university’s president, according to the complaints.
The Title IX complaints allege President E. Joseph Savoie groped, kissed and hugged the players after games, to the point where one former player said she felt uncomfortable and avoided the interactions.
As first reported by The Vermilion, Savoie has requested an independent investigation into those complaints, which he said an emailed statement will be “unfounded.”
Here’s the full statement:
As you may be aware, a few former softball players have accused me and Director of Athletics Dr. Bryan Maggard of inappropriate behavior toward them.
I want to assure the University community that these accusations have no merit.
However, because the University treats any accusations of impropriety with the seriousness they deserve, I have asked the University of Louisiana System to conduct an independent review of these specific allegations. I am confident the UL System inquiry will conclude that these new allegations are completely unfounded.
In the past decade as president, I have considered the safety and well-being of the University community a sacred obligation. I will continue to work every day to ensure that all members of our University family are treated with respect, dignity and fairness.
Those nine former players filed the complaints earlier this year. Shreveport attorney Allison Jones announced earlier this week the players had retained her to represent them.
“If the university continues to do what it’s done in the past, which is to simply ignore these claims and retaliate against people who bring them, then I think litigation will be forthcoming,” Jones told KATC on Thursday.
“It seems however that this university has a culture of just ignoring these kinds of complaints of sticking their head in the sand and wishing they go away, rather than dealing with dealing with the complaints. Rather than addressing the concerns of people who are courageous enough to come forward and rather than adopting policies that can solve these problems,” Jones said in a press conference.
Jones also said “the nine young women have filed complaints with the office of civil rights, those RCO complaints are being pursued and investigated currently. The four complaints have filed complaints with the EEOC and they are being investigated by that commission. We expect that litigation will ensue at some point, but right now we are requesting that the university step forward”.”
The players stood behind Coach Mike Lotief last yea, when the university fired him amid player complaints that he verbally and sometimes physically abused his players. Lotief maintains he was fired for raising gender inequity concerns with the university.
The players reiterate those claims in their complaints — including that they were retaliated against for standing behind Lotief — and add new ones that also allege discrimination for some players’ heterosexual orientation.
Read them below.