The president of the University of Missouri system said Sunday he is seeking an independent review of how the university handled allegations from a swimmer that she had been sexually assaulted. More >>
The president of the University of Missouri system said Sunday he is seeking an independent review of how the university handled allegations from a swimmer that she had been sexually assaulted by a football player more than a year before she committed suicide.More >>
COLUMBIA, MO (KCTV/AP) -
University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe says the four-campus system is committed to bolstering its mental health services as a separate legal review of a former school swimmer's suicide is expected to soon begin.
Wolfe spoke personally Wednesday about Sasha Menu Courey's 2011 death, noting that his own daughter is a first-year college athlete.
Wolfe wants the Missouri Board of Curators to hire an independent outside counsel to look into former student Courey's suicide, her attempts to get help for her mental state and her allegations that she was raped while a student at the school.
"We are going to understand what happened and we will be better for it," Wolfe said.
The president said the independent counsel will help the university decide if it needs to make changes to policies regarding reporting sexual assaults and helping students suffering from mental illnesses.
"It is important to note the independent counsel reports to the board of curators. That independent counsel has free reign in terms of looking at everything, including me," Wolfe said.
In an ESPN report on the student athlete, Courey, a member of the Mizzou swim team, wrote in her journal that she had been raped by a member of the football team in 2010. She sought help from a rape crisis hotline and university health officials who were not required to report it. A year after the alleged rape, she committed suicide.
"What I feel, as a parent, is that one of our students is dead and I don't want to feel that anymore, and our goal is to help Sashas of the world and try to give them the necessary mental health support or whatever support they need for any of our students in a way that we can never let this happen again," Wolfe said.
He said he's instructed all four chancellors at the other campuses to invest in training students and staff to recognize mental health issues and sex assaults.
Some students on campus would like to see changes.
"I don't think there are enough facilities, services and certainly not enough information on how to report it, who to report it to and the consequences are far too underplayed to make it a serious conversation on campus," said MU student Emma McIntyre.
"We have the outlets, but not everybody feels like anything's going to come of it, so they shove it off like it never happened," said MU student Caiti Alexander.
Wolfe is also asking that the four chancellors of campus look at how much the school invests into the resources that help train students and all employees on issues like sexual assault and mental health.
"I believe we can learn from this and I believe that, based on these learnings, it will help not just the MU campus, but all four of our campuses in how we can better support and proactively help those students that have mental illnesses or create and environment to prevent sexual assault or when, unfortunately, a sexual assault occurrence does happen that we know how to respond appropriately," he said. "What I consider this is, we have made very, very good investments and we do have a healthy environment, but we're not where we need to be and we'll never be where we need to be. This is in the category of a never-ending journey."
When asked on multiple occasions to speak about Courey's case, Wolfe was insistent that he couldn't comment on matters pertaining to her because of the criminal investigation that is being led by the Columbia, MO, Police Department. He also wouldn't comment on the ESPN story.
The Missouri Board of Curators met following Wolfe's press conference and went into executive session. They will vote on whether or not to pursue the president's request for an independent report on how the school handled her death as well as claims of a sexual assault by at least one football player when she was a freshman.
Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.