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April 17, 2014 Volume 35, No. 27

MU chancellor responds to independent counsel’s report

In an email to MU employees Tuesday, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said he accepts the findings of the Dowd Bennett report on MU’s handling of the the case of Sasha Menu Courey, a freshman swimmer who claimed to have been sexually assaulted in 2010. She took her life the following year.

The report found that MU, though there was no intentional mishandling of the alleged assault, did not follow proper Title IX guidelines in reporting the incident to the campus Title IX coordinator.

“Although nothing will bring [Menu Courey] back, we can move forward and honor her memory by making sure that MU is accountable and responsible,” Loftin said.

He made the following points and updates:

The Columbia Police Department continues to investigate the Menu Courey case.

Earlier this year, the University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe directed all four UM campuses to conduct a comprehensive review of all sexual assault and mental health resources available to students, staff and faculty and then to re-educate the MU communities about those resources.  

In addition, each campus was tasked with reviewing all policies, procedures and training as it relates to sexual assault and mental health.  

MU completed the first phase of this task, a comprehensive inventory of all available resources, and the campus community was emailed this month to remind them of those resources.  

Loftin said he looks forward to seeing additional results and recommendations from the campus task force in the coming weeks. On Wednesday, University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe announced the hiring of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, a law and consulting firm that will perform a third-party assessment of the materials collected by the task forces at the four campuses.

Director of Intercolegiate Athletics Mike Alden created a sub-task force to examine how the Department of Athletics handles student incidents and concerns. The athletics task force includes an independent prosecutor, the MU campus sexual assault coordinator and the associate dean of MU’s law school.

MU has identified areas for improvement in its sexual assault reporting policies and procedures. Administrators plan to implement them in the coming months.  

Loftin said that administrators must educate faculty and staff across all departments on those procedures and their responsibilities to the MU community.

On April 7, Wolfe issued Executive Order 40 to supplement the university’s nondiscrimination policies. The order makes clear that every employee — excluding health care providers, counselors, lawyers and others who have a legal obligation to maintain confidentiality — is required to report claims of sexual harassment against students to the appropriate Title IX coordinator.

Administrators are examining how MU addresses cases involving sexual assault. MU might create an independent committee with special training to specifically handle these cases, Loftin said.

The University of Missouri must also continue to examine policies as they relate to alcohol and the enforcement of those policies, Loftin said. Young people and alcohol are a dangerous combination.

Student safety is paramount, Loftin said in an April 11 statement.

“This is really ‘job one’ since a safe campus is required for learning and discovery to take place,” he said.