ROLLA, MO (KTVI)– The University of Missouri has released a scathing independent report that describes its handling of information regarding the rape and eventual suicide of a swimmer as a failure. The investigation surrounds former MU swimmer Sasha Menu-Corey.
Menu-Corey was raped in February 2010. She wrote in her diary and told medical professionals that at least one football player, possibly more were involved.
The report, from the law firm Dowd, Bennett of Clayton, says there is no evidence proving anyone employed by Mizzou not bound by doctor patient confidentiality knew about the attack prior to Menu-Corey’s death. It’s the events later that present problems.
At the M-U system’s Board of Curators meeting in Rolla, Friday, system president Timothy Wolfe began with an apology.
“I want to begin by saying to Sasha Menu Courey’s family, friends, and teammates that we are truly sorry for this heartbreaking tragedy and we apologize for whatever shortcomings may have occurred on our part in our treatment of her while she was one of our students.”
The report pointed to a number of problems. A newspaper article about Menu-Corey’s suicide, published in February, 2012 contained the first public mention of a sexual assault, and some at Mizzou saw it. The report says right then, someone with the school’s Title IX compliance office should have been notified. Title IX is the federal law that provides equal protection for men and women in public education.
The report indicates nothing was said then, and that Mizzou’s actions became worse in November. It was then Menu-Corey’s parents asked for access to their daughter’s emails. University officials found, among other documents, the transcription of an online chat between Menu-Corey and a rape counselor. But the university had no set procedure for what someone should do with that information, and little was done.
The Title IX law is enforced largely by guidance from the federal Department of Education and Office of Civil Rights. Universities are supposed to have a set process for reporting incidents of sexual assault.
“We have found that university officials failed to comply with the guidance issued by the office for civil rights regarding how to handle allegations of sexual assault,” Ed Dowd, who ran the investigation, told reporters.
University officials defended themselves on one front.
“The report doesn’t indicate any intentional wrongdoing by anyone,” General Counsel Steve Owens said. “Instead it’s acknowledged that people were acting in good faith and trying to be helpful. But mistakes were made.”
Among the mistakes were attempts to contact Menu-Corey’s family about the information found in the emails. A letter was written to them asking if they wanted an investigation in November of 2012. It wasn’t mailed until the following January. When no one responded, they apparently let the matter drop. Why?
According to Dowd, Bennett’s Lisa Hoppenjans, who interviewed the parents, “It was very sensitive information that was being presented in a very impersonal way and no one every followed up with them, is what they indicated to us.”
The report comes in the wake of several days of turmoil surrounding Mizzou Athletics. Players on the basketball and football teams have both been dismissed this week thanks to run-ins with police. Asked if this was an embarrassment, Chancellor R. Bowin Loftin, didn’t go that far, but made a promise.
“I have at my disposal certain tools. Those tools will be used as I see appropriate to ensure our campus is safe,” he said.
The first step according to Wolfe, the system president, is a re-vamping of the entire process surrounding the reporting of sexual assaults. That, he says, is already underway.