April 11th, 2014
COLUMBIA, Mo. — First, I want to extend my most sincere and heartfelt condolences to the entire Menu-Courey family, to Sasha’s friends and teammates and to all those who cared deeply about her. Time cannot lessen the enormity of her loss. On behalf of the entire University of Missouri family, I extend my deepest sympathies to Sasha’s family.
I thank President Wolfe and the Board of Curators for providing the time, resources and transparency to look into this matter. These issues are of the utmost importance on a college campus, and we take them very seriously. The safety, security and health of our students are our most important priorities.
I have not had time to read the Dowd report thoroughly since I received it, but along with our senior administrative team, I will begin that process this evening and will withhold any comment on the Dowd Bennett report until we have completed our review.
However, since the circumstances surrounding Sasha’s passing were made public in January, both the UM System and our institution have worked diligently to listen, to learn and to enhance our policies and procedures. This is an update on where we are today:
- The Columbia Police Department continues to investigate the matter, and we will provide any and all cooperation they seek.
- As you know, President 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 our 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. We have completed the first phase of this task, a comprehensive inventory of all available resources, and we communicated with every member of campus last week to remind them of those resources. We look forward to seeing additional results and recommendations from the campus task force in the coming weeks.
- Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Mike Alden also created a sub-task force solely to examine how our Department of Athletics handles student incidents and concerns, a group that includes an independent prosecutor, our campus sexual assault coordinator and the associate dean of the University’s Law School.
- Already, we have identified areas for improvement in our sexual assault reporting policies and procedures, and we hope to implement them in the coming months. We must then educate our faculty and staff across all departments on those procedures and their responsibilities to our community.
- President Wolfe issued Executive Order 40 to supplement the University’s nondiscrimination policies and make clear that every employee (unless they are health care providers, counselors, lawyers, and have a legal obligation to maintain confidentiality) is required to report sexual harassment perpetrated against students to the appropriate Title IX Coordinator, and we have communicated this to the entire campus community.
- We also are examining our Office of Student Conduct and how we address cases involving sexual assault, and we may, ultimately, create an independent committee with special training to specifically handle these cases.
- We also are working to engage a respected firm specializing in risk management in this area.
- Finally, not unlike our peer institutions around the country, we must continue to examine our policies as they relate to alcohol and our enforcement of those policies. Missouri is not immune to the damaging consequences when alcohol and our young people mix.
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 a 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.
Since joining the Mizzou family nine weeks ago, I have met many wonderful and dedicated professionals and thousands of inspiring young men and women who are here for a singular purpose. I am the Chancellor, but I am also a professor, a husband, a father of two and a grandfather of three. I take my responsibilities in all of my roles with the utmost of seriousness, and I am committed to ensuring that we are a stronger community moving forward. We owe it to Sasha, her family and to all those entrusted to us.
As I stated earlier, I cannot comment on any aspects of the Dowd Bennett report since I have yet to read it thoroughly, but I am happy to take other questions.
Editor’s note: The full report from the Dowd Bennett law firm can be seen here: http://www.umsystem.edu/media/president/statement/Independent_Counsel_Final_Report.pdf