University of Missouri

MU system president calls for independent investigation of alleged rape

Updated: 2014-01-27T05:41:16Z

By TOD PALMER

The Kansas City Star

The president of the University of Missouri system called Sunday for an independent investigation into how the school handled a sexual assault allegation made by a female swimmer who subsequently committed suicide.

MU announced Sunday that it had forwarded information about the alleged assault of Sasha Menu Courey to the Columbia Police Department. But MU system president Tim Wolfe issued a statement later Sunday that said, in part, that he had asked the Board of Curators to hire independent counsel to investigate MU’s handling of the Menu Courey case.

“Such an independent review will be beneficial to all our campuses so that we can determine if there were any shortcomings with respect to MU’s handling of the matter and, if so, ways in which to improve the handling of such matters in the future,” Wolfe said in a statement.

Wolfe also called for the system’s university chancellors to “lead a comprehensive review of your campuses’ respective policies, training and procedures concerning the prevention and reporting of sexual assaults and the availability of mental health services.”

Wolfe also pledged to make funding available to address any deficiencies found by the independent investigation.

On Sunday, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” aired a story claiming MU failed to investigate Menu Courey’s claims. The school announced in a statement released Sunday morning that it learned new details about Menu Courey’s allegations Friday when an online story accompanying the “Outside the Lines” piece was initially published.

Missouri’s statement reads, in part: “After review of this new information which was previously unavailable to MU, it was determined that the alleged assault occurred off campus, and therefore lies within the jurisdiction of CPD. The university will assist CPD in any way possible as they conduct their investigation.”

ESPN’s story includes an interview with former Tigers wide receiver Rolandis Woodland, who said Menu Courey mailed him a package that included a videotape from February 2010 of the alleged assault shortly before she committed suicide June 17, 2011.

Woodland said a family member misplaced the tape, according to the ESPN report.

Meanwhile, Gil Moye, a former Missouri running back who left the team around the time of the alleged assault, admits to having consensual sex with Menu Courey, but he denies letting other players assault her.

MU said in the statement that it wasn’t able to conduct an investigation — as legally required by Title IX and the Cleary Act — until now, because no complaint had been made to the university and it lacked sufficient evidence about the incident to proceed on its own.

Meanwhile, MU maintains its stance that it didn’t learn about the alleged sexual assault until fall 2012, when it uncovered the transcript of an online chat Menu Courey had with a National Sexual Assault Hotline rape crisis counselor in response to a Sunshine Law records request from her parents, Lynn Courey and Mike Menu.

MU also published a letter Donnell Young, the university’s senior coordinator in the Office of Student Conduct, sent Menu Courey’s parents Jan. 28, 2013, asking for any additional information they might have about the alleged assault and asking if they wanted the university to pursue an investigation.

The university claims that Menu Courey’s parents never responded to the letter.

MU doesn’t dispute that Menu Courey told campus healthcare providers about the alleged sexual assault, but maintains that those employees were bound by legal and patient privacy concerns from disclosing that information to university administrators.

Furthermore, in a response to the “Outside the Lines” story posted on its website, MU said it believes former assistant director of academic services Meghan Anderson, who denies that Menu Courey told her about the alleged assault during a May 2011 phone conversation.

An entry in Menu Courey’s journal said she told Anderson, who now works at the University of Tennessee, while undergoing treatment at McLean Hospital in Boston for borderline personality disorder after a suicide attempt in April 2011.

MU’s response goes on to say that there was insufficient information in a Feb. 12, 2012, article from the Columbia Daily Tribune to prompt an investigation.

On Friday, the university said athletic director Mike Alden was out of town until Tuesday and unavailable for comment.

After turning over information to the Columbia Police and rebutting ESPN’s story, the university’s statement concluded, “Out of respect for the CPD process, MU will not comment on the investigation.”

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.

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