LSU removes French Studies chair after assault lawsuit

By Via AP news wire

Louisiana State University has removed the chair of its Department of French Studies a week after six women with connections to the university filed a lawsuit accusing the university of doing too little to address allegations of sexual harassment and assault against a French graduate student, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Adelaide Russo was removed “effective immediately,” according to an email that LSU College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Troy Blanchard sent to colleagues and obtained by the The Advocate. Russo remains an LSU professor but is on sabbatical.

The graduate student, Edouard d’Espalungue d’Arros, left the country while he was facing charges in the rape of a seventh woman in Rapides Parish.

Russo and Blanchard are among the LSU officials sued last week by the three undergraduate students, two graduate students and a professor. Two of the undergraduates said d'Espalungue raped them.

The plaintiffs say their complaints to LSU’s Title IX office, charged with looking into violations of federal law involving sexual discrimination, went nowhere.

The lawsuit says LSU learned of the pending rape allegation in Rapides Parish no later than Oct. 10, 2018, citing local news reports. It says d’Espalungue was removed as a graduate teaching assistant by Blanchard. But, the suit says, Russo effectively kept d'Espalungue in contact with students in a variety of ways, involving him in department programs such as French Table and French Movie Night and having him run social media accounts for the LSU French Club.

The suit, filed Oct. 4, names the LSU Board of Supervisors and five officials as defendants. None of the defendants had responded to the lawsuit in court as of Thursday morning. A request for comment from the defendants was declined by LSU.

News outlets reported that d’Espalungue was permitted by a state judge in Rapides Parish to travel to France last year — well after his 2018 arrest, but before he was indicted in February on a charge of third-degree rape. The alleged victim in that case is a University of Louisiana-Lafayette student who said d’Espalungue raped her while both were attending a religious retreat in Rapides Parish.

An arrest warrant has been issued for d’Espalungue, but the prospects of forcing him to return to Louisiana are unclear.

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