Following a school-requested investigation, the University of Missouri has acknowledged that they failed to properly address evidence indicating student Sasha Menu Corey had been sexually assaulted by a fellow student, an incident that appears to have led in part to her eventual suicide.
In a letter obtained by Jezebel sent to the entirety of the Mizzou campus Tuesday, new Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin wrote that though "though there was no intentional mishandling of the allegation, the University did not follow proper Title IX guidelines in reporting the alleged assault to our campus Tile IX coordinator." Loftin's letter was in response to the Dowd Bennett Report, which was released Friday. Solicited by the University of Missouri's Board of Curators after an extensive ESPN piece came out about Menu Courey's life, the law firm conducting the investigation was critical of Mizzou. They concluded that that the school didn't have the appropriate Title IX policies set up for its employees and that they didn't act in February 2012 when Menu Courey's allegations were brought to light in a Columbia Daily Tribune article, or later, when further evidence was revealed by her parents.
The firm still found, however, that "aside from University healthcare providers, it cannot be definitively concluded that a report of sexual assault of Sasha Menu Courey was made to any employee or official of the University while Sasha was alive, other than medical personnel." Medical officials are often not allowed to share confidential details with school administrators, but according to Menu Courey's diary, she told an academics coordinator about the assault as well. Unfortunately, the report indicates that there's no proof of what was really said during the conversation: "In fact, because Meghan Anderson was participating in the telephone call while at a restaurant, it is possible that either because of miscommunication or an inability to hear everything, there was an unintentional disconnect between what Sasha Menu Courey said and what Meghan Anderson heard during the call." Anderson herself denied that Menu Courey told her she had been raped during that conversation.
Dowd Bennett blames much of the inability to fully fault the University on the generalness of the language of Title IX; they write that they school only failed to follow guidelines dictated by the Office of Civil Rights, which is not technically illegal. (Lawyer Ed Dowd told the Tribune that this is "a very unusual factual situation.") But the firm did dismiss Mizzou's previous claims that the reason they didn't investigate Menu Courey's sexual assault after it was in the public was because of confidentiality concerns; the report makes it clear that that's a bogus claim because, per her parents wishes, the story was already out in the open and at that point, she had already died.
In his email to campus, Chancellor Bowen Loftin outlined changes college president Tim Wolfe would be making as the school reviews their sexual assault policies, and noted that local police are still to investigating the case. Perhaps most notably (for the school's longevity anyway), they're "working to engage a respected firm specializing in risk management in this area" – you know, for lawsuits and such:
Here is what I know: I know that we must refine our policies and procedures as they relate to the handling of criminal allegations and investigations, particularly those involving sexual assault. I know that we must improve the coordination between law enforcement, our Title IX Coordinator and the Office of Student Conduct. I know that we must earn back any trust or confidence lost through our actions or lack thereof. I also know, that even one case of sexual assault, domestic violence or of an unanswered mental health concern is one too many. Our students and their parents; our faculty and staff; our alumni and community neighbors all deserve a safe and secure campus environment. This is really "job one" since a safe campus is required for learning and discovery to take place.
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In a press conference last week, President Wolfe echoed these remarks as well. He also personally apologized to Menu Courey's parents, who have accepted the apology.
Images via University of Missouri Athletic Department and Jeff Roberson/AP