Data News Weekly Contributor
Young Black college students took to social media to join in on the ongoing search for a missing Louisiana State University freshman since Tuesday April 6, 2021. In addition to Gauthier’s case, a report outlining LSU’s failed compliance to Title IX reporting stemming from sexual misconduct reports have left many young people and parents in the greater New Orleans-Baton Rouge area concerned about the safety of the state’s flagship Public University Campus.
Crews continue to search for Kori Gauthier as of Monday, April 12th, after the LSU freshman from Opelousas, was reported missing when her car was discovered on the Mississippi River Bridge on Interstate 10. Baton Rouge police indicate they do not have any evidence to suspect foul play or any criminal activity in the case. And while the search continues for Gauthier, current students say they feel not enough is being done to create a safe space for students.
“I think it’s 1, pretty scary and 2, disheartening to realize it took LSU a few days until she was big on social media to say anything,” said Naya McGill, a graduating senior at LSU. “By the time LSU sent an email, everyone on campus knew about Kori through social media. It was just very disappointing to watch all of that unfold,” McGill said.
Students who attend LSU shared that safety concerns regarding the recent news of Gauthier’s disappearance and the ongoing coverage of sexual misconduct at the school has elevated conversations around whether the school is actively listening to students.
“When I was an undergrad student, I did not feel the safest. Some students could stay out late and not have a problem, but I was not one of those students,” said Loreal Johnson, an LSU graduate student who will earn her master’s degree there in May.
Routinely mishandling multiple sexual allegations, LSU is now under its second federal investigation of sexual misconduct.
“The whole situation with sexual misconduct allegations is very disappointing, it really makes me question if they care to listen to their students’ stories and to stop their horrendous situations from happening,” McGill said.
Students complained on social media that university officials were initially removing posters to help find Gauthier. Amongst response to how LSU is handling Gauthier’s situation, students said they felt there is a divide on what LSU students believe is the best for the school and what administration believe is best for the school’s image.
“Maybe eight-to-nine hours passed following her disappearance and students were already making it aware, and efforts to spread. While an entire day and a half later, LSU finally made a statement concerning the disappearance of one of their students,” said Colbe Perry, a senior LSU transfer student.
Students believe the campus is not taking timely precautions to handle Title IX reports and creating a safe space for students. LSU President Thomas Galligan said in a statement that the investigation reports were “brutally honest and objective evaluation of our culture.” Students said they want the university to begin to address all forms of safety on campus.
“LSU makes it seem as if it is a safe campus for all students no matter gender or race, when in actuality, there are certain groups who cannot experience this safety and comfort,” Perry said. “It is a great school, but until it’s safe for all, the only thing LSU can do to prevent these types of circumstances from happening is to remain accountable and vigilant,” Perry added.
Four of the 10 football players accused of sexual assault were arrested, while the other six faced allegations at LSU. In response to these allegations, LSU found that a “highly recruited football player” was responsible for the sexual allegations made on campus.
LSU handled the news with lenient punishment being “disciplinary probation.” Which forbade him from studying abroad, but still allowed him to play the entire 2017 and 2018 season, according to reports.
Upon the ongoing investigations and disappearance of Gauthier, LSU students have spread flyers, hosted prayer vigils, and walked the Mississippi River levee to continue to spread over social media and in the community, about Gauthier’s disappearance.
“It makes me feel very concerned for the family especially, I just really hope they’re able to find her,” Johnson said. “Yes, LSU has a lot going on but the fact that a student is missing, and the family and students had to beg and plead to get information about her posted is really unacceptable. I really hope LSU makes necessary changes to become a better university overall,” Johnson added.