Imagine the day-mare for the public relators and donation raisers at MU when they saw the St. Louis Post-Dispatch front page:
“FAILURE AT MIZZOU”
All caps. Bold and big and at the top of the page. Followed by the headline: “School did not follow rules after alleged assault.”
The news this week was dominated by the same topic of last week and last month: sexual violence on campus.
On April 11, MU released the findings of an independent review into the death of Sasha Menu Courey. As you’ll recall, Menu Courey was an MU student on the swim team who said she was raped by three football players. Menu Courey later took her life.
The attorneys from Dowd Bennett, the law firm hired as an independent counsel by the UM Board of Curators, couldn’t find anything criminal in the university’s inaction, but the rest of the report was pretty accurately summarized in those three big words in the Post-Dispatch.
The university didn’t define what employees are supposed to do when students tell them about sexual assaults. The university didn’t act on the information it had about Menu Courey’s allegations.
The university didn’t.
So what have MU and its parent system done?
On Wednesday, UM System boss Tim Wolfe announced the hiring of a risk management firm. According to the Missourian article, “The Pennsylvania firm will provide an independent analysis of each campus’ sexual assault and mental health resources.”
This is part of “phase II” of the task force Wolfe created in the wake of the Menu Courey story that first aired on ESPN. The first phase was stunningly underwhelming. The task force made an inventory of resources and found the phone book: 10 organizations at MU that support sexual assault victims.
I suppose you have to start somewhere.
This second phase sounds more promising. It’s hard to tell. This week I challenged reporters to find more clarity in the language.
Mr. Wolfe and his new MU chancellor have said they want to create a model that other universities will want to copy. Will this risk firm lay out the blueprint? Or, by analyzing the current inventory, is it simply saying, yep, that’s what y’all have there at the U?
Wolfe has proven his eagerness to act. After the first outside report, he put out an executive order saying that just about everyone who draws a paycheck with the university seal is required to report student victims’ descriptions of sexual assaults and harassment.
That’s lightning fast for the U. Something done.
Tom Warhover is the executive editor of the Missourian. Contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 882-5734.