MU seeks answers from magazine

Officials sent a letter to Seventeen about the Tiger Hostess story.
Sunday, August 8, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:13 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

As MU officials push for more details from a report published in Seventeen magazine, they continue to release more specific plans for the future of the Tiger Hostess program.

The article, published in the September issue of the magazine geared toward female, teenage readers, reports that MU’s athletic department ignored a Tiger Hostess’ claims of sexual harassment. The woman, who is cited anonymously in the article, claims recruits sexually harassed her and coaches joked about her complaints. The article did not say when the alleged incidents occurred.

The Tiger Hostess program has been a recruiting arm of the athletic department in which female student volunteers show hospitality to prospective student athletes. In the past, the hostesses could take the student athletes off campus and lead them on tours around the university.

Last week, university officials sent a letter to Seventeen magazine but would not say publicly what was in the letter. Elizabeth Dye, a spokeswoman for Hearst Magazines, which includes Seventeen, said the letter had been received but would not disclose the contents or comment on them.

“This was something that the university sent us, so right now we are reviewing it and keeping it confidential,” Dye said Friday.

An open records request asking that the letter be made public was filed with the University of Missouri system general counsel’s office Friday afternoon.

Rachel Goad, a former KOMU-TV employee, is credited as an additional reporter on the Seventeen story. The story is based on the unnamed woman’s allegations; however, it includes a quotation attributed to Mark Alnutt, who the article says is director of the Tiger Hostess program. MU lists him as director of football operations.

A portion of Alnutt’s quotation in Seventeen can also be found in Goad’s KOMU report about changes to the hostess program last spring.

Dye said Goad approached the magazine with the article’s content, but she would not comment specifically on what was given to the magazine. KOMU news director Stacey Woelfel said that although the station has no written policy, it is understood that pieces of an employee’s reporting may be sold, but the entire package is not for sale.

“I’m not going to go into the details of what Rachel brought to us,” Dye said. “I’m just going to tell you that the piece includes some previous reporting that she had done.”

Goad, who now works for a TV station in Louisiana, could not be reached for clarification on Saturday. On Friday, Goad said she was called by a Seventeen editor last week and asked not to comment on the article and asked to direct questions to the article’s editor.

On Friday, MU officials said the hostess program would be integrated in the overall prospective student program. Hostesses would be employed by the admissions office, instead of the athletic department. The title of “Tiger Hostess” will dissolve along with the program’s association with the athletic department.

“Basically what it means is that the people who have been identified as being Tiger Hostesses for the fall will now be a part of the MU tour team,” MU spokeswoman Mary Jo Banken said.

The change means more than just additional tour guides for the fall semester. Banken said hostesses will now be paid for their work; while working for the athletic department, they were not paid.

Treatment of prospective student athletes will change as well, said Chase Wagner of MU visitor relations. The admissions office will take on responsibility for the visits of prospective student athletes, removing it from the shoulders of the athletic department.

“Our department — which trains all year to give tours and to work with prospective students — now we’re going to be in charge of these athletes, and now we’re going to be in charge of their visits throughout the day,” Wagner said.

Missourian reporter Kate Moser contributed to this report.

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