Five University of Montana students have left the school as a result of UM’s investigation into nine alleged sexual assaults, UM President Royce Engstrom announced Thursday.
“The events of the past few months have delivered a critical message to the university,” Engstrom wrote in his report, which he said closes an investigation begun in December into sexual assaults involving students.
“We have had a serious issue with sexual assault and we have to take bold and decisive measures to move toward the elimination of sexual assault,” he said in a telephone interview. “It is a new time for the university with respect to sexual assault. We are as serious as we can possibly be about this matter.”
Among the steps listed in his report: a new Student-Athlete Conduct Code; a required online sexual assault course for all students; mandatory reporting by university employees who learn of sexual assaults; and a team that comprises top UM brass, including Engstrom, that will assemble when an assault is reported. That team will determine how to proceed in such cases.
As for the cases included in the report, Engstrom did not indicate whether the five students no longer at UM had been expelled, dropped out or graduated. Their cases were handled under Student Code of Conduct procedures that preclude naming the students or detailing specific sanctions.
Engstrom said Thursday that “some elected to leave as a result of the interactions with the dean of students. ... They will never again be able to be a part of the university.”
Three other students facing sanctions as a result of the investigation are appealing those actions, and remain at the university during the appeals process, he said.
Engstrom also wrote that three cases were closed because of lack of evidence of an assault, and two cases were suspended because the victims didn’t pursue them. Some of the cases involved students reportedly being assaulted by multiple men.
Along with his report, Engstrom also posted the revised Student-Athlete Conduct Code and vice president for student affairs Theresa Branch’s memo on educational programs about sexual assault. He also posted a memo by UM legal counsel David Aronofsky on legal issues, including privacy and on issues concerning student-athletes (see related story).
Engstrom’s 3 1/2-page report ends the university’s investigation begun in December after allegations that two students were drugged and gang-raped by other students. UM hired former Supreme Court Justice Diane Barz to look into those allegations.
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Barz filed a report in January that grew to include the nine cases that allegedly occurred between September 2010 and December 2011. The university took over the investigation in February.
Although Engstrom’s report largely focused on the allegations in Barz’s review, it also mentioned – without names – two other cases.
A foreign exchange student accused of raping another student in February fled the country after the university notified him of a Student Code of Conduct investigation into the case.
Engstrom wrote that “the other case is pending in the Student Conduct Code process.”
A restraining order recently was filed against UM Grizzlies starting quarterback Jordan Johnson by a woman who accused him of sexual assault. A police report also was filed alleging a sexual assault on Feb. 4. That was the night of UM’s Foresters Ball.
“Some of the cases have involved or may presently involve law enforcement investigation outside of the university,” Engstrom wrote. “In those cases, the university has cooperated fully with authorities and will continue to do so.”
Beau Donaldson, a Grizzlies running back, was charged in January with sexual intercourse without consent in connection with an alleged September 2010 assault. That case, which is moving through Missoula County District Court, also was referenced in the Barz report.
Barz, who wrote that “the UM has a problem of sexual assault on and off campus,” suggested that the university continue her investigation and review the results within six months to a year. Engstrom’s report comes eight weeks after Barz’s, but he said Thursday that UM will periodically review the results of the new policies. “We will continually assess our progress as regards sexual assault as we go along,” he said.
“The closure of the investigation does not mean that we will be a campus free of sexual assault,” Engstrom wrote.
But he also wrote that “the events of the past few months have delivered a critical message to the university. ... Now we must focus on the goal of eliminating sexual assault from our campus. I will expect and hold accountable every member of my administration and indeed every member of the campus as a whole to do his or her utmost to address that goal.”
Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, email@example.com or @CopsAndCourts on Twitter.