Five months after a group of LSU students filed a lawsuit over the university’s failure to control a sexual predator on campus, warnings emerged this week from LSU’s French studies department that said “we haven’t forgotten”.
The flyers came amid LSU’s release of a fall class schedule that showed former LSU French Studies president Adelaide Russo was set to teach a graduate-level elective. LSU demoted Russo last year from department leadership after she was named a defendant in the student lawsuit, who says she repeatedly ignored complaints from students and a professor about former graduate student Edouard of Espalungue d’Arros.
D’Espalungue, a native of France, was enrolled in LSU’s French Studies graduate program from 2017-2020 and founded an American Journal of French Studies that has published essays by high school and college students. He was arrested in 2018 in Alexandria after a student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette alleged he raped her during a religious retreat. But while d’Espalungue awaited trial, students say in court documents that Russo continued to defend him and allow him to interact with other female students.
At least six women have accused d’Espalungue of sexual misconduct at LSU, including two who allege he raped them. One of the rape allegations resulted in his suspension from LSU in late 2020, while he was also charged with third-degree rape in the Alexandria case last year.
In a letter posted on the door of Hodges Hall, home to LSU’s Department of French Studies, an LSU junior wrote that Russo should not be allowed to teach until the allegations against her are resolved. . The student also called on LSU to release the findings of an internal investigation into Russo’s actions.
“Until details of the results are made public, Dr. Russo should not be allowed to teach in the classroom or interact with the very students she is accused of firing and abusing,” the dated letter reads. of March 27.
Other flyers taped to the French department read: ‘We want to feel #SafeNotSilenced’ and a QR code linking to The Advocate | Times-Picayune coverage of the Espalungue affair.
Another student sent a mass email to French department teachers, students and others asking that Russo be reassigned. She wrote that she would be required to take Russo’s elective in the fall in order to graduate in French.
“The only promise this department made to us in October was that Russo would be removed as department chair and have no contact with students,” she wrote. “You broke your promise.”
Ernie Ballard, an LSU spokesperson, said LSU has expanded its Office of Title IX, which investigates sexual misconduct, to ensure incidents are now handled quickly and appropriately.
As for Russo, he said the lawsuit against LSU “outpaced the university’s ability to investigate the issues ourselves.”
“At this time, Dr. Russo has been removed from his position as department chair but is not placed on administrative leave from his professorship,” Ballard said. “She will be teaching a class this semester. She has no advisory responsibilities with student organizations or departmental groups. We may change our actions in the future, but at this point we do not have enough information to take further action.
Russo referred questions about this story to his attorney, who did not respond to a message Tuesday.
While Russo faced criticism at LSU for his handling of the Espalungue affair, d’Espalungue himself fled the country. He asked a judge in Alexandria at the end of 2020 to return to his home country of France for the Christmas holidays and did not return.
The judge issued an arrest warrant for him, but France does not extradite its citizens when they face criminal charges in other countries.
D’Espalungue appears to be reinventing himself as a financial analyst and journalist in France, based on social media profiles linked to his name. He has written several articles for the Medium site and a Twitter account in his name shared several articles in support of women who have accused a French presidential candidate of sexual misconduct.
The American Journal of French Studies also continues to publish, although d’Espalungue’s level of involvement in it is unclear. The journal’s website requires a password to see the names of people affiliated with it.