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MU curators approve independent counsel to investigate Sasha Menu Courey case

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, at 1:57 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, at 1:35 a.m.

In a regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday in Columbia, the University of Missouri Board of Curators approved system President Tim Wolfe’s request for an independent counsel to investigate the circumstances of former MU swimmer Sasha Menu Courey’s alleged rape and eventual suicide.

“Ms. Courey’s story is very tragic and sad, and our sympathy and prayers are with her family, friends and teammates,” board Chairman Don Downing said in a news release. “The board wants to take an independent look at what happened here. Separately, our chancellors are promptly reviewing their campus policies and procedures concerning the prevention and reporting of sexual assaults and availability of mental health services, and President Wolfe has rightly committed to devoting additional resources to the extent those policies and procedures are found to be lacking.”

The board’s next step will be to retain an independent firm to conduct a thorough review of Menu Courey’s case.

“Once selected, the independent counsel will report back to the full Board of Curators no later than April 11, 2014, the board’s next meeting in Rolla, with findings and conclusions,” the release said.

Wolfe initially made the request Sunday after an ESPN “Outside the Lines” investigation, which aired earlier that day after being published online Friday, questioned MU’s handling of Menu Courey’s withdrawal from school and the sexual assault allegations that became public after her death.

“Based on the recent events and information that has come to light, I have asked the Board of Curators to take a look at hiring independent, outside counsel to take a look at all matters related to this tragic incident,” Wolfe said during a news conference Wednesday before the Board of Curators met. “Hopefully, from this investigation, we can understand what happened and we can learn from this.”

Wolfe also called on the chancellors at the University of Missouri system’s four campuses — Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis and Rolla — to come up with recommendations for improving each school’s responsiveness to students in distress and promised resources to help in the training of students and employees “on issues like sexual assault and issues like mental health and how we respond to those in need.”

Wolfe deflected all questions specific to Menu Courey’s case, citing an ongoing Columbia Police Department investigation that started Monday after MU forwarded information gleaned through ESPN’s report.

“I can’t comment on the matters pertaining to Sasha, because of the criminal investigation that is being led by the Columbia Police Department but fully supported by the MU campus and the rest of the MU chain,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe said the goal of the investigation and reviews he was asking for is to create “the safest possible campus environment” for all students and visitors.

“I believe we can learn from this and I believe that based on these learnings, it will help not only the MU campus, but all four of our campuses in how we can better support and proactively help those students that have mental illnesses,” Wolfe said. “… We have made considerable progress and considerable investment in this space, but we can always do better.”

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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