When policies seem to let us down, when powerful institutions under attack prefer to bombard us with calculated prepared statements rather than empathetic real people, when heartbreaking tragedies occur and young people die far too soon, our reflexes often can take us to conclusions based on pure emotions rather than cold-blooded facts.
The University of Missouri is an organization feeling that severe emotional lash of public opinion now, struggling to defend itself against charges it could have maybe should have done so much more that could have saved the life of Sasha Menu Courey.
It's incredibly complicated and decidedly difficult to understand whether there was something institutionally that could have been done at MU that could have prevented her death.
I don't know what happened. I don't know if something more could have been done.
I don't know what Missouri athletics department officials knew and when they knew.
But I do know this: We're still one investigation shy of what it ultimately will take to discover whatever is the complete and uncomfortable truth.
Since ESPN's "Outside the Lines" released its report two Fridays ago on the circumstances surrounding Menu Courey's death, a flurry of activity has occurred. The university turned over information to the Columbia police and a criminal investigation was launched officially.
Twenty-four hours earlier, university system president Tim Wolfe requested that the board of curators launch an independent investigation into the case.
All this is great, and while there are two sides to the argument over whether any of these probes could have or should have commenced sooner, there should be no debate that either investigation will answer some essential questions that still remain in this tragic saga.
These are questions of whether there was a total failure by responsible members of the MU athletics department. These are questions about whether someone knew about Menu Courey's allegations of the sexual assault and failed to report it. These are questions about whether MU athletics department officials were more interested in extracting her and her high-maintenance mental health issues from the school than helping get them solved. These are questions about whether the response to the ESPN report was more interested in covering the university with plausible deniability or providing the unvarnished truth.
Make no mistake about what questions I'm raising.
This isn't an accusation.
This isn't an automatic presumption that just because someone accused them of wrongdoing that they did anything wrong.
But make no mistake about this, either. This also isn't an automatic presumption that Mizzou officials did everything right, either.
We don't know, but we need to know.
And the best way for that to happen isn't with "independent" investigators investigating the institution that hired them.
This tragedy requires a far more potent probe, one that involves either the state attorney general's office or a federal investigation similar to the one that was launched last week to look into the way Penn State handled sexual assault and harassment complaints in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
The Penn State inquiry was begun by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, when it informed PSU that the agency had concerns after it saw a huge spike in "forcible sex offenses" in the school's annual crime data.