A Clayton, Mo., law firm has been hired by the University of Missouri Board of Curators to determine whether employees on the Columbia campus acted within the law and university policy regarding the alleged rape of former MU swimmer Sasha Menu Courey.
By MARÁ ROSE WILLIAMS and TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
“The board wants an independent counsel to look at what the facts actually are — what the university knew and when it knew it, and what it should have done under applicable law and our policies,” curators chairman Don Downing said Friday in a teleconference.
The law firm, Dowd Bennett, is scheduled to report to the board with findings and conclusions on April 11, when it meets in Rolla for its next meeting.
“We’ve received a commitment from the Dowd Bennett firm that they can get this done, that they’ll devote whatever resources are necessary to get this done within the time period we’ve asked them to,” Downing said.
The university said that no member of the firm’s five-person investigating team is an MU alum and that, to its knowledge, the firm has never performed work for the University of Missouri.
Menu Courey alleged that she had been raped in 2010 by a member of the school’s football team. Her parents discovered the allegation in her journal after she committed suicide in June 2011.
The sexual assault allegation, which may have involved more than one player, was made public in a newspaper article in February 2012, which circulated among MU athletics staff members.
MU’s conduct was called into question because no investigation was launched until the story was reported by ESPN last month. At that time, the university forwarded information to Columbia police, who subsequently opened a criminal investigation.
Downing didn’t know if the independent counsel would contact Menu Courey’s family as part of its review.
“I don’t want to prejudge or direct in any way what the independent counsel should do,” Downing said. “We’ve left that up to their independent discretion. The identity of those that they choose to interview and the sequence and all of those things will be up to them.”
Downing said he expected the Board of Curators to release the findings publicly. He cautioned that “there may be some (privacy or legal) issues there, but I know the board’s intention is to release the report to the extent it can under applicable law.”
Downing said the second part of the process, on-campus reviews of all policies with respect to sexual assaults, reporting of sexual assaults and mental health services at the MU system’s four campuses is underway.
New MU chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said Friday that deputy chancellor Mike Middleton has been leading a comprehensive review of all rules, practices, policies and procedures as they pertain to student social services on the Columbia campus. He was given 30 days to complete the process.
Individuals with information pertaining to the independent counsel’s investigation are encouraged to contact Dowd Bennett attorneys at 314-889-7300 or they can make an anonymous report by calling EthicsPoint at 855-208-3252.