The Southern University System—the five-campus public university with campuses spread across the state of Louisiana—has placed its associate vice president for human resources on paid leave, pending an investigation into sexual assault allegations by a former employee, the university announced
The action taken by Southern late last week, was elevated by virtue of it coming months after the university system parted ways with its vice chancellor for student affairs after a private sex tape surfaced involving the school official and one of his graduate school students was provided to a web service known for broadcasting salacious visuals.
An institutional investigation has still not yielded the source of the explicit video. Relying on the state’s “at will” employment law and its findings in the weeks after the tape went public, Southern dismissed the vice chancellor.
Cited as a coincidence in timing, officials at Southern stressed that the recent suspension of Lester Pourciau, associate vice president for human resources for the Southern University System, was not related to the students affairs vice chancellor case.
“Every employee and student has the right to a safe, positive working and learning environment,” said Ray Belton, SU System president and Southern Baton Rouge chancellor, in a statement released by the university. “We will do everything in our power to ensure such.”
The university declined to provide the name of the former employee or additional details of the allegations against 68 year-old Pourciau, a well-respected and widely known higher education human resources veteran in Louisiana. His biography indicates he has been associated with the university since 1999 when he started as an adjunct professor. He was hired in full time capacities at Southern in 2005 as human resources director at Southern University at Baton Rouge. Aside from a brief employment interruption in 2009, he has been a system wide vice president for human resources.
It was learned that the former employee, whose allegations are being investigated, had worked for the university from November 2001, until this past fall. She filed a complaint with the state late last year.
Some human resources personnel across the nation said that they were surprised by the allegations.
It’s “highly unusual” for a “seasoned or novice” in human resources to not know what circumstances would lead to a sexual abuse allegation charge, said veteran human resources administrator Irene Chapman Hawkins, vice president of human resources at Delaware State University, echoing peers around the country. She said that in her more than 30 years in human resources, this was the first instance she has heard of sexual assault allegations against a human resources chief.
Hawkins said unwanted sexual encounters “are not impossible” noting human resources personnel “are human” too.
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