The University of Montana "appears to have a gap in reporting sexual assaults," according to a preliminary report released Tuesday by an investigator hired last month by the school.

"There is evidence of non-consensual sex that is not being reported in the university system," according to the investigator, former Montana Supreme Court Justice Diane Barz. She added that her report - originally to have been completed within two weeks - "as a practical matter" will take more than two months.

The university commissioned Barz's probe in mid-December after allegations surfaced about two female students, possibly drugged, being gang-raped by male students. UM Vice President Jim Foley said at the time that the investigation would review only incidents on campus, which includes Greek housing.

But Barz's investigation now includes a third assault, possibly off campus. "...There is evidence that there has been a sexual assault that has not been appropriately reported and investigated," Barz wrote in her preliminary report that went to UM President Royce Engstrom on Saturday and was posted Tuesday on the school's website.

Foley said Tuesday that "there are three allegations that I'm aware of as of this morning." A statement he released Tuesday said those incidents may have occurred on or off campus.

"The investigative team has interviewed more than 30 witnesses to date, including students, coaches, student-athletes, administrators and members of the public," Foley's statement said.

Although Foley said last month all the assaults involved students, he would not specify then whether those included athletes. A source with direct knowledge of the situation told the Missoulian at least three UM football players allegedly were involved.

"This investigation has revealed that there are many students of interest that need to be questioned under the Student Conduct Code," Barz wrote in her preliminary report.

One of the alleged victims terminated her relationship with UM personnel after being contacted by the press, Barz wrote, while "the other victim seems to be reluctant to proceed via the Student Conduct Code process."

She said the investigative team - which includes Dean of Students Charles Couture and Lucy France, who heads UM's Equality, Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office - has yet to find any evidence of the so-called date-rape drug Rohypnol. A Montana Crime Lab toxicologist said that concoctions that produce Rohypnol's combination of quick unconsciousness and subsequent amnesia are easily made with household ingredients or over-the-counter medication.

"The investigation will continue to look at patterns of student conduct involving alcohol, illegal use of prescription, and illegal drugs," Barz wrote. "We need to emphasize that the use of alcohol and any drug that results in loss of memory can result in non-consensual sex, which is a crime."

Barz wrote that one female student athlete told her she thought the school provided sufficient warnings about date rape and alcohol misuse. But Barz recommended that UM create a website on the topic, similar to one posted by Syracuse University's Department of Public Safety.

That website includes a printable campus safety brochure that includes a section on sexual assault. The site also has a "Crime Prevention" subheading that includes something called "R.A.D." But it takes another click to realize that's a "Rape Aggression Defense" program. Clicking on the heading "Safety Workshops" notes only that the university runs programs on "alcohol awareness" and "RSVP - Reducing our Students' Victim Profiles."

Federal Title IX regulations, under the Office for Civil Rights, mandate that universities receiving federal funds investigate allegations of sexual assault on campus or at university programs. Barz wrote that the Office for Civil Rights indicates such investigations usually take about 60 days.

"The current situation requires a more extensive investigation into possible ongoing sexual harassment," she wrote, and so will take longer than 60 days.

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

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