2nd petition backs Williams, seeks confirmation as regent

2013-02-27T06:15:00Z 2013-04-22T17:43:32Z 2nd petition backs Williams, seeks confirmation as regent missoulian.com

A group backing Pat Williams’ confirmation to the Montana Board of Regents has rallied behind the former U.S. congressman, saying his work on behalf of the University of Montana outweighs any statements he made to the New York Times regarding the university’s past football recruiting practices.

Supporters launched a petition late Monday asking state Sen. Jeff Essmann, regents and Gov. Steve Bullock to endorse Williams’ pending confirmation to the board, which sets policies for the Montana University System.

Posted on Change.org, the petition had 790 supporters by Tuesday morning, but had surpassed 1,000 by mid-afternoon. They’d also launched the Twitter handle “Stick with Pat” in seeking support.

“I want to go to school in a place where rape and assault aren’t OK and the people in charge of looking after the university aren’t afraid to say so,” said Aylinn Inmon, who helped launch the petition. “Because (Williams) has always stood up for this school, for students, for lower tuition and higher education in Montana, I believe he should absolutely be confirmed to the Board of Regents.”

The move among supporters seeking Williams’ confirmation counters an opposing petition launched by a group of UM football fans who are seeking his removal from the Board of Regents.

That petition, which is circulating on eGriz.com, asks the Governor’s Office and higher education officials to censure Williams and block his confirmation to the statewide board.

Backers of that petition have repeatedly declined to discuss the matter with the Missoulian.

“Mr. Williams’ statements are now national news,” their petition says. “Your decisive action to terminate the appointment of Mr. Williams will also be national news.”

The two opposing camps emerged after Williams told the New York Times in a January interview that the university had recruited “thugs” to its football program.

“We’ve had sex assaults, vandalism, beatings by football players,” Williams told the Times. “The university has recruited thugs for its football team, and this thuggery has got to stop.” He made similar comments to ESPN.com.

Williams later clarified his statement, telling the Missoulian he was referring to past crimes committed by a handful of football players, one of whom was recently convicted of raping a childhood friend.

Some Grizzly football fans maintain that Williams’ comments were misleading and, given the reach of the Times article, gave the UM football program a national black eye.

“Publicly labeling our football players as ‘thugs’ is obviously untrue and knowingly damaging,” their petition reads. “These young men have dedicated the better part of their lives to achieve this level of collegiate athletics, resulting in nationally recognized academic and athletic success.”


Williams’ supporters disagree. They believe that Williams, as a former UM student, faculty member and parent of three UM graduates, has always had the university’s best interest at heart.

“Pat has been a longtime ally for Montana students and education,” said Cynthia Wolken, a member of the Missoula City Council and a petition supporter. “After his time in D.C., he moved back to teach in Montana when he could have stayed there. I know him personally. He’s very positive about the university, the students there and their potential.”

The petition calls Williams “eminently qualified” to serve on the Board of Regents. It cites his chairmanship of the House Committee on Postsecondary Education during his service in Congress.

Williams was appointed to the Board of Regents last year by Gov. Brian Schweitzer. He faces a confirmation hearing next month. Regents are confirmed by either the Senate Administrative Committee or the Senate Education Committee.

The Montana University System hasn’t commented on either petition being circulated. A spokesman for the MUS has told the Missoulian that while the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education disagrees with Williams’ comments, regents are entitled to their opinions.

“The Board of Regents is confident that the student-athletes, coaching staff and administration are committed to representing UM and the Montana University System with both honor and integrity,” the other regents offered in a recent statement.

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(19) Comments

  1. UMalumnus
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    UMalumnus - February 27, 2013 2:09 pm
  2. UMalumnus
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    UMalumnus - February 27, 2013 2:08 pm
    Part of the reason the latest petition has gotten so many signatures is because it has been pushed and endorsed by this "paper" and one "reporter" in particular.

    Williams is a disgrace. He used the term thugs which to most people is a loaded and racist reference. He knew exactly what he was saying. He also knew it was wrong which is why when it blew up, he tried to walk it back. We are all better off for him no longer making this country's laws. We would be better if he had no say in the future of OUR university, not his.
  3. Pistol
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    Pistol - February 27, 2013 1:13 pm
    The only football player convicted of a feloney is a Missoula product. Tell me how the coaches when recruting him would know he would br convicted of rape? The grade point average of the team is higher then the general student body. Inform all of us how a school screens there student athletes differently than a general student?
  4. Cardiac
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    Cardiac - February 27, 2013 1:09 pm
    "Backers of that petition have repeatedly declined to discuss the matter with the Missoulian."

    Even this Bobcat fan in Billings knows that is just not true. The Missoulian can't get the news correct about itself, why would it be trusted about anything?
  5. dave ajou
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    dave ajou - February 27, 2013 10:15 am
    as in the sand in Saudi Arabia ?
  6. ShedDoorNed
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    ShedDoorNed - February 27, 2013 10:14 am
    It should be noted that the author of this story was a former paid official within the Montana democratic party, and it was either purposedly misleading or a bald face lie that backers of the petition to deny Willimas' confirmation "repeatedly declined to discuss the matter." This is not about politics, a member of the BOR has to make higher education in MT his/her #1 priority. Williams impugned all of MT with his comments, not just the University of Montana. He spent 22 years in the US Congress, is no stranger to the media, and his comments were not taken out of context. Did the writer seek out Williams for a comment, if not, why not? IF so, did Williams "decline to discuss the matter?" IF so, why wasn't that stated in the article. Kidston and the Missoulian have very low journalistic standards.
  7. Denise Moore
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    Denise Moore - February 27, 2013 9:44 am
    This is not a question of Williams' past dedication to the University. It is a question of his present day judgment. Being a member of the Board of Regents carries weighty responsibilities, among them judgment, discretion, tact, reason. These are the more important measures of qualification for such a public and vital board position.
  8. J555-5
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    J555-5 - February 27, 2013 8:57 am
    Petition against, petition for. That shows why Pat Williams should not be confirmed. He is, by his very nature, divisive. We don't need this kind of loud mouth, political hack on our Board of Regents. Divisive...yes. Loud mouth...always. Political hack...duh.
  9. Pistol
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    Pistol - February 27, 2013 8:38 am
    No way the senate approves his nomination. He should step a side if he is for the betterment of the university system. The longer this stays in the news the more harm there is for fund raising, enrollment. This isn't just Grizzly football fans who oppose him exercising his right to speak in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  10. smarterthanwalter
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    smarterthanwalter - February 27, 2013 8:37 am
    Pat Williams simply stated what even the biggest Griz fans know but dare not say aloud--that winning at all costs has taken precedent over recruiting great student athletes. UM is a university and academics should be the focus. Having a football team or any other activity is great and a wonderful source of pride, but when there is a constant barrage of news about Griz players being arrested, there's a problem and Williams was right for saying so. What UM needs is leadership who will say it like it is not boneheads who hide their head in the sand.
  11. Bbr
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    Bbr - February 27, 2013 8:37 am
    you are correct it was the students who gave UM a black eye - students like the Saudi student who assaulted multiple women but was given a heads up to get out of town. Or the student from Michigan with multiple felonies on his record who was pimping teenage girls on Craigslist. Or the student from Washington who was robbing pharmacies. Or the student who was trying to hook up with an 12 year old (who turned out to be a policeman). Or the student who raped a 14 year old in Lewis and Clark dorm. Or the multiple students in the last 2 years who have stabbed, beaten or attempted to murder someone, or committed larceny, vandalism, public drunkenss, DUI, MIP, drug possecion and distribution (felony and misdemeanor),disturbing the peace and other crimes. But none of those students were football players or athletes, so apparently they were not thugs, and Pat Williams has no interest in cleaning up that part of UM. And that is why he should be removed, he doesn't care about fixing problems or stopping abuse against women, only about his political agenda, which is to get rid of the football program at UM
  12. Mazola
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    Mazola - February 27, 2013 8:28 am
    Why would anyone support a politician who would use the Jordan Johnson trial as a spring board to launch their own agenda? Williams decided to open his pie hole right before the trial began. He really needed to go to spin doctor training, prior to spewing this diarrhea laced tirade.
  13. montanamuralist
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    montanamuralist - February 27, 2013 7:14 am
    The problem is NOT with football fans. The problem is that he cast a general suspicion over a program that has one of the highest graduation rates in athletics in the nation. That is a fact. So to characterize, in a broad brush stroke the football team as a "bunch of thugs" is really not true. Yes, the program has given some kids a chance to improve their lives and they have failed. The Missoulian and the press have consistently talked about a "gang rape" last year that has never been proven or is even close to having charges filed regarding the incident. Yet it comes up in every story about UM football. Johnson has not been convicted of the charges against him. The vast majority of players in any sport are a credit to the University and the community and comments like Williams made are just plain stupid and inaccurate. Sounds like an Engstrom clone and does nothing to help with the vast amount of alumni dollars needed to maintain these programs to the benefit of the university and the economy of the community. Yes we need to make sure student athletes perform at the highest levels while attending the university. To systematically sabatoge these programs is what we fans are objecting to. To repair the damage you can not go out and make broad brush stroke statements that are not true. Williams is experienced and savvy most of the time. He should have known better. That eliminates him from a spot on the Bo9ard of Regents in my opinion.
  14. Salish
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    Salish - February 27, 2013 6:58 am
    It was not Pat Williams who "gave the university" a black eye. It WAS the students he was referring to. There's absolutely no question about it.
  15. blunt
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    blunt - February 27, 2013 5:41 am
    He has done more damage to UM with his mouth and pushing of his hand puppet Engstrom than anyone could have thought possible. He is a disgrace, and should be publicly thrown off the BOR. Its time to Stick It To Pat.
  16. detonate
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    detonate - February 27, 2013 5:19 am
    Pat Williams has served his time and should write a book or something...? The drunken uncle should spend the rest of his time away from politics or the public eye. He is a hand grenade with the pin released to the ground. His recent comments show a lack of precision in his vocabulary which is not acceptable from a public servant. U.M. student athletes have just turned in a record academic performance which negates his words regarding "thugs". Individuals have made mistakes and heads have rolled. There are numerous more qualified individuals available who are NOT craving personal attention. I consider him being affirmed a short sighted mistake by lazy a$$es.
  17. Banner Thomas
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    Banner Thomas - February 26, 2013 11:23 pm
    I would like to point out the organizers of the petition asking for his confirmation to be denied were not reached and have made comment that they're unaware of any attempts to get their comments on this.

    The families of players, friends, and supporters of the program were offended by what he said. These supporters feel that Pat should be held accountable for his statements which cast an unfair blanket over hundreds of good student-athletes that play for the Montana Grizzlies.

    The petition asking his confirmation to be denied can be found here: http://www.change.org/petitions/oppose-the-confirmation-of-pat-williams
  18. StickWithPat
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    StickWithPat - February 26, 2013 9:54 pm
    Thank you for mentioning the "Stick With Pat" twitter account, people can follow it here:

    To sign the petition supporting confirmation of Regent Pat Williams, click here:

    As of right now, here are the breakdowns in support (remember, the anti-confirmation petition has been around since Feb 14, the pro-confirmation petition started yesterday afternoon):

    1,228 to confirm Regent Pat Williams
    1,040 to not confirm Regent Pat Williams
  19. mike1
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    mike1 - February 26, 2013 9:45 pm
    I am a Williams supporter. I hope he gets voted on the board. I also wish he hadn't made his harsh words so public, but it is not such a terrible mistake to reject his wisdom and ability on the board. I advise football fans to "get over it".
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