Mehrdad Kia resigns as associate provost for UM international programs

2012-03-13T06:30:00Z Mehrdad Kia resigns as associate provost for UM international programsBy GWEN FLORIO of the Missoulian missoulian.com
March 13, 2012 6:30 am  • 

Mehrdad Kia resigned last week as the University of Montana’s associate provost for international programs, UM Provost Perry Brown said Monday.

Brown, who is attending a conference in California, said he received Kia’s resignation in an email last Wednesday or Thursday. Kia will continue to teach at UM, and to head the Central and Southwest Asia Program.

The change will let Kia focus his attention on teaching and developing that program, Brown said.

Kia did not respond to requests for comment about the change.

Brown said there is no link – “absolutely not, none whatsoever” – between the change and the fact that an international exchange student at UM fled the country last month after being notified by the university that another student said he’d raped her. Her alleged assailant, who is Saudi, was studying at UM as part of its international program.

Over the weekend, UM posted the job now held by Dean of Students Charles Couture, who notified the Saudi student about the alleged rape and an assault on another woman that reportedly happened on the same night last month.

UM President Royce Engstrom said Sunday that Couture had notified the university in October that he planned to retire later this year, and it had nothing to do with the public furor over UM’s handling of sexual assault cases.

The university commissioned an independent report on the matter in December after two female students reportedly were drugged and gang-raped by multiple male students. That report, issued at the end of January, grew to examine nine alleged sexual assaults involving students between September 2010 and December 2011.

It did not include the two Feb. 10 incidents allegedly involving the Saudi student. Engstrom said Couture correctly followed Student Code of Conduct procedure in notifying the man without calling Missoula police. By the time the woman made a police report, the man was gone.

Kia has not been willing to discuss that incident in the intervening month.

Kia is one of UM’s most visible faculty members. He was UM’s distinguished teacher of the year in 1997 and most inspirational teacher of the year in 1999. He was named a national professor of the year in 2000 by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, according to UM’s website.

The Central and Southwest Asia Center hosts an annual conference that draws academics, experts and diplomats from across the country and several nations.

Brown him called an “extraordinary teacher and leader.” But the triple burden of heading international programs and the Central and Southwest Asia Center, along with teaching, was a strain, he said.

As head of the center, Kia will still report to Brown.

Meanwhile, UM has tapped Gerald Fetz, retired Arts and Sciences dean, and former dean of the Davidson Honors College, as interim International Programs director. Fetz started Monday.

Brown said a search for Kia’s replacement has not started, but will likely take several months.

Missoulian reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio@missoulian.com, or on Twitter via @CopsAndCourts.

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