August 21st, 2014
As Chancellor of the University of Missouri, I believe that one my greatest responsibilities is the well-being of our students, faculty and staff and that includes their safety and security. Since I took office more than six months ago, University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe and I have worked hard to evaluate and review our policies and resources related to sexual assault and mental health and, as a result, we have instituted sweeping changes to ensure the well-being of our community.
However, as we move forward, we must also learn from the past.
The report earlier today on ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported on instances in which the University should have taken action, an indication of why we believed that we needed to undertake a comprehensive review of our policies and procedures. As it relates to one case highlighted in the report of an assault in 2008, our internal processes broke down, and the proper procedures were not followed regarding the student conduct discipline process and a necessary Title IX investigation. In regard to the allegation that a member of our coaching staff threatened to revoke the scholarship of a student-athlete if she pressed charges in an assault case, as soon as we learned of the Columbia Police Report, we spoke to the coach, the former player and others and found that claim to be unsubstantiated.
Though there does not appear to be an intentional mishandling of any of the cases in the report at this time, I make no excuses, and offer my personal apologies and those of my staff to the victims. No degree of explanation or regret can undo what has happened in the past. Our focus now is to do everything within our power to prevent sexual misconduct of any type at Missouri and, if it does unfortunately occur, to provide the resources and support to the victim while assuring that the perpetrator is brought to justice.
I know that even one case of sexual assault or domestic violence or a lack of resources to assist our students violates our sacred responsibility to the community. Our students and their parents, our faculty and staff, our alumni and community neighbors all deserve a safe and secure campus environment, and you have my word and my solemn promise that I will continue to work with UM System President Wolfe to work toward that end.
We have pushed hard to make our campuses safer and to protect the rights and care of victims of assault. Among those initiatives:
- University of Missouri System President Wolfe issued Executive Order No. 40 to strengthen the University of Missouri’s Title IX nondiscrimination policies and to clarify reporting structures for any staff or faculty members who may become aware of an incident of sexual harassment of any kind. Everyone on campus, except those with professional privilege – counselors, healthcare workers, etc. – became “mandated reporters” as a result of this Executive Order.
- Training is being provided to students, staff and faculty most likely to witness or receive reports of sexual harassment and violence so that victims are immediately offered appropriate resources.
- A full-time Title IX coordinator and additional deputies, representing Student Affairs, Athletics, MU Health Care, and Human Resources/faculty, have been identified. A full-time Title IX investigator was hired.
- UM System President Wolfe identified and hired a nationally known consulting firm to advise us on the restructuring of our student conduct processes and give us an independent analysis of all current resources. With this expert, external guidance, we look forward to strengthening our current resources and processes as we move forward.
- Our Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, Mike Alden, created a sub-task force solely to examine how our Department of Intercollegiate Athletics handles student incidents and concerns, a committee which included an independent prosecutor, MU’s coordinator of MU’s Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center and the Associate Dean of the University’s Law School.
- We also are reviewing how our Office of Student Conduct addresses cases involving sexual assault, and we may, ultimately, create an independent committee specifically to handle these cases.
- We have strengthened many of our existing programs and resources aimed at preventing sexual assault and assisting victims. For example, our Relationship, Sexual Violence & Prevention (RSVP) Center is staffed with trained professionals who address any issues related to physical or mental health and may accompany victims to the hospital or to a mental health counselor. Our RSVP Center staff also can help students with changing living accommodations, seeking legal counsel, changing class schedules or taking other appropriate actions.
- 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 of underage drinking and alcohol abuse by those of legal age.