Southern University Board Chairman Steps Aside Amid Sexual Harassment

 

BATON ROUGE, La.

The Southern University Board of Supervisors has called a special meeting for May 5 to sort through allegations that board chairman Johnny Anderson sexually harassed female employees.

Anderson has voluntarily relinquished his gavel temporarily, pending the investigation, but now Southern University System President Ralph Slaughter is facing counter-charges that he attempted to smear Anderson with the allegations. If true, in incident could cost Slaughter his job.

A source close to the investigation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, says the allegations against Anderson involve female employees who say they were offered pay raises and promotions in exchange for sex.

Slaughter has repeatedly declined comment, except to say that his role was as a  “whistleblower.”

Anderson, who also serves as assistant chief of staff for Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, claims he was vindicated by a report compiled by an attorney appointed by the governor to investigate the allegations. In that report, Baton Rouge attorney Mark Falcon reported that he could not come to a conclusion because Slaughter had refused to provide requested information, including tape recordings of Anderson’s alleged victims.

Slaughter’s attorney claims much of the evidence requested by Falcon was turned over to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office during a federal grand jury investigation, which took testimony and subpoenaed records in December. No action was taken, and federal prosecutors have declined to discuss the probe.

In his report to the governor, Falcon noted that he had “been able to identify certain individuals who may have been involved with the complaints identified by President Slaughter or otherwise possess knowledge of these complaints.”

Falcon said he asked that the university force those employees to speak with him regarding the alleged sexual harassment. The university notified the employees in question, but said they declined to be interviewed by Falcon and the university refused to compel them to do so.

In an April 23 letter to the governor issued in response to the report, Slaughter’s attorney, Jill Craft, noted that Falcon never provided documents establishing his authority to investigate the allegations against Anderson. Craft also said Slaughter was never ordered by the board to provide Falcon with the requested material. She argued that Slaughter had a responsibility to keep the complaints confidential out of respect for the “integrity and secrecy” of the grand jury proceedings and the alleged victims’ privacy rights.

“One must wonder how the victims could be protected against retaliation when Dr. Slaughter has already been made the subject of retaliatory conduct for doing nothing more than attempting to provide the information and protect the victims,” Craft wrote.

Slaughter first reported the alleged sexual harassment in an Oct. 26 letter to state Sen. Charles Jones, a powerful Black legislator from Monroe who chairs the Louisiana Senate and Governmental Affairs Committees.

The letter references a report that was sent to Jones, but has not yet been released to Falcon or the board.

“I was not able to investigate these allegations because [Anderson] is my supervisor, nor am I sure that I can offer the employees some of the protection from future harassment that some of them have requested,” Slaughter said in his letter to Jones.

Slaughter went on to ask Jones’ committee to conduct a confidential investigation of the alleged harassment.

“I do not believe I could report these allegations to the executive branch because Mr. Anderson is both chairman of the Southern University Board of Supervisors and the assistant chief of staff to Gov. Blanco,” Slaughter wrote.

Anderson’s dual role prompted him to step down as board chairman on April 21 until the board resolves the matter.

“Honestly, I don’t understand why there would be controversy,” he says. “All of us are trying to find the best place to educate young people. We just laid out the facts … to paint a picture of what’s happening to these Black college students.”

–Scott Dyer



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