COLUMBIA — MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin issued a new statement in response to ESPN's "Outside the Lines" report alleging that the university mishandled several reported instances of assault.
In the statement, Loftin apologized on behalf of the university, though he said there "does not appear to be an intentional mishandling of any of the cases in the report at this time."
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.
An ESPN "Outside the Lines" report released Thursday titled "Athletes, assaults and inaction" said MU failed to act on information and address several alleged assaults committed by former Missouri running back Derrick Washington.
One allegation in the report describes an incident in which a soccer coach used a scholarship as leverage to keep one of his players from reporting that she was assaulted by Washington. According to the ESPN report, Washington punched the player in the face after an altercation that resulted in the arrest of the soccer player and Washington's girlfriend.
Loftin said soccer coach Bryan Blitz was clearly trying to tell his player that her arrest could result in her scholarship being revoked.
"What seems to be clear is the soccer player and coach had a conversation," Loftin said in a teleconference Thursday afternoon. "Sometimes two people talk to each other and leave the room with a different understanding of that conversation."
Loftin said he and University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe spoke to the coach, former player and others and found that the claim was "unsubstantiated."
Noel English, the former Title IX coordinator and director of MU Equity, declined to comment. Interim Title IX coordinator Linda Bennett could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
ESPN will air the full report at 8 a.m. Sunday but made the story and a video preview focused on Washington available online Thursday.
The report includes the details of two incidents that ultimately led to Washington's dismissal. The first took place in June 2010, when a 2009 MU graduate and former tutor, Teresa Braeckel, reported that Washington entered her bedroom in the middle of the night and sexually assaulted her. He was dismissed from the Missouri football team in September of that year.
The second came three months later, when Washington was arrested for assaulting his ex-girlfriend.
The ESPN report describes two other incidents that occurred prior to his removal from the team.
The first was in October 2008, when Washington was reported to have raped a sophomore student in her MU residence hall room.
The second incident came in May 2010, when the aforementioned soccer player said Washington punched her at a bar.
The June 2010 incident resulted in a conviction of deviate sexual assault in 2011. Washington was sentenced to five years in prison but served a 120-day shock sentence. He pleaded guilty to third-degree assault in the attack of his ex-girlfriend and served a 90-day sentence concurrently with the shock sentence.
In a statement to ESPN, Loftin said, "the University of Missouri System and our campus in Columbia, have evaluated and reviewed our policies and resources related to sexual assault and mental health. As a result of this review, we have instituted sweeping changes."
New attention was brought to how MU and the UM System handles Title IX cases in January when ESPN reported on the suicide of Sasha Menu Courey, which occurred about 16 months after she was allegedly assaulted by one or more football players. A Missourian report looked at what Title IX is and the responsibilities of reporting sexual assault.
In early April, Wolfe issued Executive Order 40, which would require all UM System employees — excluding those bound by confidentiality such as health care providers, counselors and lawyers — to report all known information about sexual harassment or assault of a student to the Title IX coordinator.
In the teleconference, Loftin said although the university has made some mistakes in the past, there are new procedures in place at the university level to improve how it handles allegations of sexual assault.
"We have gone through a great deal of effort to identify all the resources we have on campus to help victims of sexual assault and make them more accessible," Loftin said. "We've done a great deal of work to try to change everything here. The fact that we made mistakes in the past is not right."
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Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.