MU releases Q&A statement regarding Sasha Menu Courey

This morning, the University of Missouri released an updated statement, in Q&A format, regarding Sasha Menu Courey and ESPN's Outside the Lines feature. Most of this has already been covered in other university statements, but below are some key points.

Q: Why didn’t the University start an investigation as soon as officials first knew about an allegation of sexual assault?

A: University of Missouri officials were not aware of any allegation of sexual assault until late 2012.  (Sasha died in 2011.) In the process of gathering documents in response to Sasha’s parents’ Sunshine Law request, MU discovered a transcript of an online chat between Sasha and a crisis hotline that included a reference to an alleged sexual assault. Sasha had never reported this to University officials or requested an investigation while she was alive, and the transcript did not include the name of an assailant or any other specific information that would prompt an investigation. However, after discovering this document, the University contacted the parents and asked if they would like an investigation to take place. The parents did not respond. Therefore, at that point in time, which was after Sasha’s death, the University was unable to go forward with an investigation due to no request for an investigation and a lack of specific information. Prior to this, the only personnel who knew of Sasha’s allegations of sexual assault were health care providers who are restricted by privacy laws from discussing a patient’s conversations without the consent of the patient.  ESPN acknowledges that health care providers are not required to make reports about sexual assaults without patients’ permission.

Q: Isn’t MU required to do a Title IX investigation, especially after the Columbia Daily Tribune reported in early 2012 that an assault had occurred?

A: The U.S. Department of Education’s official guidance on Title IX states, "If a school knows or reasonably should know about student-on-student harassment that creates a hostile environment, Title IX requires the school to take immediate action to eliminate the harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects."  The Feb. 12, 2012 Columbia Daily Tribune article contained only these two sentences about an alleged assault:  "Menu Courey also wrote in her diary months later that she was sexually assaulted at the end of her freshman year. She did not name the attacker."

This information did not suggest that the alleged assault occurred on or near campus or in this country or Canada; nor did it indicate that any other students were involved. This is not enough information to suggest that the University "reasonably should know about student-on-student harassment that creates a hostile environment."

Although Sasha’s parents shared this information from her journal with the Columbia Daily Tribune prior to publication of the Feb. 12, 2012 article, they never – not at that time or since – brought this information to the attention of the University or otherwise asked the University to investigate.

Q: Why is the University now turning over information to the Columbia Police Department and asking them to investigate?

A: Although Sasha’s parents still have never responded to the University’s inquiry, the ESPN story quotes them as saying that they want an investigation to be conducted.  In addition, the ESPN story included names of individuals who might have relevant information regarding the alleged February 2010 assault. This was the first time that University officials had any concrete information on which to base an investigation. When the name of the man with whom Sasha had consensual sex and at whose residence the alleged assault occurred was revealed, the University checked its records and determined that the man had an off-campus address. Accordingly, the information was referred to the appropriate law enforcement officials, the Columbia Police Department.

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