*UPDATE: This article has been updated to include comments from MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, UM System President Tim Wolfe, Sen. Claire McCaskill and Gov. Jay Nixon.
COLUMBIA — A report released Friday was critical of MU's actions after Sasha Menu Courey's death. Although it stopped short of saying the university had broken the law, it concluded that MU failed to act on allegations that the varsity swimmer had been raped by two football players.
At the Columbia Missourian, our ongoing coverage of the problem of sexual assault aims to educate readers and encourage productive dialogue. Read our discussion guide here.
Menu Courey committed suicide in June 2011. The independent counsel's report concluded that MU's actions were not in compliance with Title IX guidelines.
“The University’s lack of the necessary policies to ensure compliance with Title IX is significant and appears to have contributed in large part to the University’s failure ... to conduct an appropriate inquiry,” according to the report.
Key conclusions of the St. Louis-based Dowd Bennett law firm hired by the university to conduct an independent investigation are:
- The university failed to have Title IX policies in place for its employees contrary to the Department of Education's guidance regarding Title IX.
- The university should have acted on the information it had in November 2012.
- A Columbia Daily Tribune article in February 2012 should have been provided to the Title IX coordinator.
- There is no definitive conclusion that any university employee knew of Menu Courey's assault while she was alive, other than medical personnel.
At a teleconference in Rolla where the UM System Board of Curators was meeting, UM System President Tim Wolfe apologized to the swimmer's friends and family for any shortcomings on the university's part.
He said the next step is to evaluate the current procedures, policies and practices at each of the four UM campuses related to sexual assault and mental health services.
According to the report, the university learned about the allegations in November 2012, when MU did not have policies in place to address how employees should handle knowledge of sexual assault.
Nor did it have procedures officials should follow to investigate and ensure compliance with Title IX. The lack of both policies is inconsistent with requirements by the U.S. Department of Education.
The order makes it clear that all system employees, unless they are health care providers, counselors, lawyers or their staff, are required to report information about sexual assault or harassment to the appropriate Title IX coordinator. At MU, that is Noel English, who is also the director of the MU Equity Office.
The university failed to report information it received Nov. 20, 2012, to a Title IX coordinator, according to the investigation. The information surfaced after Menu Courey’s parents submitted open-records requests to MU, seeking documents related to their daughter.
One document the university received was a transcript of an online conversation between Menu Courey and someone at the National Sexual Assault Hotline that took place Dec. 8, 2010.
The second document was a medical intake assessment questionnaire filled out by Menu Courey on April 21, 2011, and emailed to a psychologist in Canada. Menu Courey came to the university from Toronto.
MU Assistant General Counsel Paul Maguffee "reached out to several people within the MU Athletic Department and informed them of the documents indicating a sexual assault," according to the report.
After sending a letter seeking more information to Menu Courey's parents and receiving no response, no further action was taken by MU.
"Under the facts, the Title IX Coodinator should have been notified and an investigation undertaken," the report stated.
"Further, because the assault was a criminal matter, law enforcement should have been notified."
The Feb. 21, 2012, article in the Columbia Daily Tribune mentioned the sexual assault. According to the report, the clip was emailed to multiple employees in the athletics department and seen by executive staff members. No follow-up action was taken to investigate the matter.
Menu Courey did tell medical personnel of the sexual assault at various times, according to the report, but they are bound by confidentiality rules.
Wolfe said Friday during the teleconference that no employees acted in bad faith; the issue rested with the university's policies and training for employees.
MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said he was committed to campus safety, calling it "very important to a university setting."
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said the report "sets out in stark terms that the university must do better."
"Clearly, the university wanted the unvarnished truth about their shortcomings, which is laudable," McCaskill said in a news release. "Now it's time to get to work and make the university a model for victim support and accountability for thorough investigations."
Gov. Jay Nixon said in a statement Friday afternoon, "I have directed my counsel to review this report but will have no further comment right now."
Here is the report:
Reporters Laura Cole, Josh Benson and Kevin Modelski contributed to this article.
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.