Missouri chancellor vows changes after rape case

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — The University of Missouri's new chancellor said Tuesday he is prepared to make the school "accountable and responsible" after an independent review faulted its response to the suicide of a former swimmer who told health professionals before her death that she had been raped by several football players.

"Here is what I know," Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said in a written statement. "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 an unanswered mental health concern is one too many. "

Loftin, the former Texas A&M chancellor who started his job on Feb. 1, was responding to a report from the Dowd Bennett law firm hired by university curators. The report found that the university fell short of federal standards under the so-called Title IX, for the reporting and investigation of sexual assault on campus.

Sasha Menu Courey committed suicide in 2011 at a Boston psychiatric hospital after withdrawing from classes at Missouri at midsemester and being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Before her death, she told health professionals bound by confidentiality that she had been sexually assaulted in 2010 during her freshman year by several football players.

The matter was not investigated by the university at the time and no one was arrested or disciplined.

ESPN's "Outside the Lines" in January raised numerous questions about the university's response to Menu Courey's death. The school initially said it didn't act sooner under the 40-year-old Title IX law or more recent U.S. Department of Education instructions because neither Menu Courey nor her parents sought a police investigation and didn't respond to a later request for information. The case has since been referred to Columbia, Missouri police.

The Education Department in 2011 warned schools of their legal responsibilities, including the need for immediate investigations that don't rely on criminal cases to move forward.

University of Missouri system President Tim Wolfe earlier this month issued an executive order that requires all university employees other than those legally bound by confidentiality to report such claims to the university's Title IX coordinator.

The Title IX coordinator — a part-time position that Loftin suggested could become a full-time responsibility — and local police should have been alerted to Menu Courey's allegations in November 2012, the report from the law firm said.

Menu Courey's parents issued a statement on Monday in support of the university's efforts to strengthen its policies.

"We are hoping the transformation in their support system will make a difference and become a model for other universities," her parents said.


Follow Alan Scher Zagier on Twitter at http://twitter.com/azagier

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