COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — University of Missouri athletics director Mike Alden says the school’s initial response to news reports about the suicide of a former swimmer who had said she was raped more than a year before her death could have been handled better.
Alden told reporters in interviews late Thursday that he expects Missouri to learn from Sasha Menu Courey’s death and use it to bolster its student mental health services rather than “trying to defend” its actions.
“If that’s the way that came across, then I would apologize,” he told the Kansas City Star.
The interviews were Alden’s first public comments on the case. Missouri curators voted Wednesday to approve an independent legal investigation in response to a request by university system President Tim Wolfe.
Menu Courey killed herself in June 2011 in a Boston psychiatric hospital soon after being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and two months after an earlier suicide attempt while still at Missouri. Her reports of a 2010 rape by several school football players are now under investigation by Columbia police.
University leaders say they didn’t learn about the purported attack until after Menu Courey committed suicide 16 months later. They also said they followed the letter of the law because they didn’t have specific knowledge of the attack and no victim to interview. Menu Courey’s parents have said they had expected the university to press forward with an investigation and were disappointed in the institutional response.
Alden said he was unable to speak publicly earlier this week because he was in Florida at meetings of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, of which he is president. The school’s initial responses to an ESPN report were more defensive, with Missouri offering a series of written rebuttals to the news organization’s reporting.
Alden told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the school will move ahead with “compassion for the victim” while looking at its handling of Menu Courey’s situation with “a very critical eye.”
The athletic director said an athletics official’s effort to help Menu Courey avoid failing grades by providing her a university withdrawal form while she was involuntarily hospitalized after the first suicide attempt in Columbia was “more coercive than . it could have been.”
“You want to take a look at all options,” he said. “The way it could have been is the way I’ve seen it done several times when a student is going to miss a lot of class: You have an option to withdraw from classes — not get out of school, just withdraw from classes.”