Menu Courey case a catalyst for MU sexual assault reporting reform

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COLUMBIA - University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin spoke Wednesday morning about the aftermath of the Sasha Menu Courey investigation and its impact on Title IX investigations. He took questions surrounding sexual assault reporting in an open-ended question and answer session initially organized as an opportunity to reflect on his first year as University chancellor.

His remarks came less than an hour before the Columbia Police Department announced it was closing the Sasha Menu Courey sexual assault case.

Menu Courey committed suicide in April 2012. Later investigations revealed the MU swimmer had reported in 2010 she had been sexually assaulted by several members of the university football team. Even though several university employees heard about the assault from Menu Courey, university administration officials were not made aware of the situation. This prompted a harsh critique of MU's sexual reporting in an "Outside the Lines" report by ESPN, published in January 2014.

During Wednesday's session, KOMU 8 News asked the chancellor directly how he thought the university played a role in helping the community start to find closure after Menu Coureys' death.

"There are some many instances we can talk about here," he said. "I think that, in terms of Sasha Menu Courey, that stimulated a great deal of thought over a short period of time to really understand how the university responds to both sexual assaults and to specific needs of our students"

Loftin cited several key changes, including the hiring of a full time Title IX administrator. Ellen Eardley will begin her positions as Title IX Administrator and Assistant Vice Provost April 20.

In addition to hiring Eardley, Loftin said university leaders have structurally changed the way students report and receive help following an instance of sexual violence. Eardley served in Washington, D.C. as an attorney and adjunct faculty member at American University Washington College of Law. Loftin said the university is fortunate to have a person of her caliber serving as Title IX administrator.

"We had the resources before, but accessing them was more dependent on the students' knowledge of where to go opposed to our having a pipeline for them," he said. "Now we have a single entry point for our students who need assistance. From that point they can be sent to the right places to get the most appropriate help they need."

Since the "Outside the Lines" article brought sexual assault reporting to the headlines, the University of Missouri has made significant changes. Loftin said in addition to hiring Eadley, the university will hire two more investigators.

Loftin said in addition to handling reported cases, university staff has increased its proactive education efforts to educate its student body.