The University Of Missouri Board Of Curators has selected independent counsel to investigate how the Columbia campus handled a former student athlete’s alleged sexual assault.
The board has hired Dowd Bennett Law Firm to determine whether the university acted consistently within the law and university policy when responding to events surrounding swimmer Sasha Menu Courey’s assault and 2011 suicide. The firm will report its findings back to the board April 11.
Board Chairman Don Downing says the firm will have as much access to university personnel and files as the board can give.
“There obviously are some issues regarding privacy issues and HIPAA that will have to be addressed by the independent counsel and I’m sure they will do so in an appropriate way," he says. "But our hope is that all university employees will cooperate to the fullest extent permitted by the law.”
In a statement, Edward Dowd said, “Our task from the Board of Curators is to do a complete investigation, get all the facts and report our findings promptly.”
The university has come under fire recently for failing to intervene during Menu Courey’s athletic and academic career at MU. ESPN reported Menu Courey sought mental health treatment before taking her own life in June 2011. The report points to a 2012 newspaper article that mentions a diary entry where Menu Courey writes about a sexual assault, and it published an online chat transcript between Menu Courey and a campus crisis line referencing the assault.
The Board of Curators voted January 29 to hire an independent counsel.
Back then, President Wolfe said the university complies with rules set for reporting sexual assault and mental health matters, but wanted an investigation to determine if the university is reporting enough in these instances.
Dowd Bennett Law Firm's investigative team for this case is composed of two former U.S. attorneys, three former assistant U.S. attorneys, a former head of a sex crimes unit, and an investigative reporter. None has ties to the University of Missouri, according to System spokesperson John Fougere.