The University of Montana holds a special place in my heart and I have defended it throughout these years despite many decisions with which I strongly disagreed. However, my trust in and loyalty to the university were betrayed this past week by the decision to hire Bobby Hauck as the football coach.
I believe many faculty, staff and alumni share this feeling of betrayal. Bobby Hauck, more than any other person, was responsible for the culture of impunity with respect to sexual harassment and assault by athletes that led to a federal investigation, the firing of multiple high-level university employees, the precipitous decline in student enrollment and the widespread perception that the university was unsafe for women.
That he has now been rehired clearly reveals the priorities of this university. The gladiator football culture that values winning no matter the cost is clearly more important than the educational mission of the university.
On the day he was hired, the university announced the termination of 30 lecturers dedicated to the education of students. It is unclear how many more faculty and staff will be terminated in the near future. The recent completion of the obscenely luxurious Washington Grizzly Champions Center merely reconfirms where the university’s priorities lie.
There have been heartening reports over the past year of a rapid cultural shift in the treatment of women. This has led to the recent removal from positions of power of many high-profile men who have engaged in sexual misconduct. Clearly, this long awaited and much-needed cultural turning point has not yet reached the University of Montana.
I ask that Commissioner of Higher Education Clay Christian refuse to approve Bobby Hauck’s contract and that our new President Seth Bodnar clearly state that educational excellence and a safe learning environment for all students are the guiding values of this university. Only then can the long, hard task of restoring confidence begin once again.