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Sexual Assault Policies, State Funding And More: A Conversation With UM System President Tim Wolfe

University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe
University of Missouri website

University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe was our guest today on St. Louis on the Air. He oversees the management of the four institutions within the system: University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Missouri-St. Louis, University of Missouri-Kansas City and Missouri University of Science and Technology, and has held the position since February 2012.

Host Don Marsh began the conversation by addressing the “elephant in the room” –the UM System’s response to sexual assaults on campus in the wake of the suicide of Sasha Menu Courey and the new White House recommendations.

Sexual Assault Policy Changes

After ESPN published their story about the university’s failure to report the alleged rape of Menu Courey, the UM System hired St. Louis law firm Dowd Bennett to perform a third-party investigation.

“The conclusion of that report was that while she was on campus we dealt with her as best we could. Our mistakes that were made were in the reporting of the information that we received, most of it after she left the campus. The reporting and the investigative responsibilities defined by Title IX weren’t as clear as it should have been,” said Wolfe.

The university system is also in the process of conducting a three-phase internal investigation. First, the four campuses defined their policies and resources.

“Before the first phase was completed, it was clear that we were not consistent relative to defined reporting and investigative responsibility as it pertains to Title IX,” said Wolfe. “So I issued an executive order before the Dowd Bennett outside report was submitted that says we need to have that policy more explicit.”

Now in the second phase, the UM System has hired the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management as a consultant to assess the effectiveness of its policies and resources.

Wolfe said they expect to receive the recommendations from the consultant next week, upon which time they will merge the information into recommendations going forward.

“I’ve already pledged support, financial support, to invest in the areas that will promote more education, more training, more awareness, more prevention of an assault or a harassment, or resources for those people that have mental health illnesses,” he added.

He described the need for friends and bystanders to step in during dangerous situations and help, especially at times when judgment may be impaired, an idea the UM System is promoting during student orientation.

State Funding

In light of the tax cut bill that Governor Nixon has said he will veto, St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh also asked Wolfe about the impact of state funding on the UM System.

“My thirty years of experiences from a business-side standpoint says I actually like tax breaks … but when I was thinking about locating a new business unit in a particular state I didn’t first say what are the tax breaks or the tax incentive. What I was looking for was the environment and did they have the workforce with the right skills necessary for what I was trying to get done,” said Wolfe.

“And that’s really what is concerning to me as the leader of higher education. We need the necessary resources, regardless of what tax policy is implemented, we need the necessary resources to provide a quality product and provide access to as many students as possible. We are not producing enough graduates right now based on the surveys that we’ve done with existing businesses, specifically in the area of our science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees.”

Other topics during the show included graduation rates, Obama’s proposed college rating system, diversity, and the unionization of student athletes.

St. Louis on the Air provides discussion about issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh.

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