University of Montana President to Step Down

Royce Engstrom is stepping down effective Dec. 31

MISSOULA — University of Montana President Royce Engstrom is stepping down effective Dec. 31, as the university continues to face declining enrollments and budget cuts.

Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian announced Thursday that he and Engstrom reached the decision after “careful discussion and consideration.”

“I asked President Engstrom to consider this transition at this time based on my belief that a change in leadership direction is the right step for UM going forward,” Christian said in a statement. “I greatly appreciate the graciousness and care with which President Engstrom engaged in our discussion.”

A national search for a replacement will begin immediately, Christian said. He plans to hold listening sessions with the university community to learn the kinds of qualities people would like to see in the next university president.

Sheila Stearns, who was Montana’s Commissioner of Higher Education from 2003 to 2012, will serve as interim president.

Engstrom announced his departure to UM’s cabinet, deans and other top leaders Thursday morning in an emotional meeting, the Missoulian reported. Last week, Engstrom had said he wanted to continue to lead UM.

He was not commenting Thursday, his office said.

During Engstrom’s tenure, UM faced reports of uninvestigated sexual assaults that led to a Department of Justice Investigation of the university as well as city police and county prosecutors. A former quarterback was charged with rape, expelled from school, reinstated, suspended from the team and later acquitted at trial. He received a $245,000 settlement after filing a claim stating the university mishandled the rape investigation.

Engstrom was criticized by some for firing the football coach and athletic director in March 2012 amid the rape investigation.

The university has seen a 22 percent decline in enrollment since 2010, while Montana State University’s enrollment of full- and part-time students increased by 21 percent over the same period. Last year, nearly 200 full-time faculty and staff positions were eliminated.

After the Board of Regents meeting in November, the commissioner’s office made it clear that the university was still overstaffed. UM spends more than 80 percent of its budget on personnel compared to a university systemwide average of 68 percent, officials said.

Engstrom sent an email to the campus community on Nov. 22, saying the university would be ranking its academic programs over the next nine to 12 months to make decisions on additional layoffs. Faculty, staff and students held an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss their concerns over how those decisions might be made.

Engstrom was named UM’s 17th president in October 2010 after three years as provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Christian thanked Engstrom for his service, noting improvements in academic research and private donations along with the construction of the new Missoula College. He also noted UM’s athletic programs are recognized for their success in competition as well as their increasing academic excellence and their compliance with NCAA regulations.

He also lauded Engstrom for major policy and procedure reforms that made UM a model campus for colleges and universities for preventing sexual violence.

  • Perrico de los Palotes

    Maybe Richard Spencer would be interested in the position.

    • Dave_Skinner

      Gosh, give it a REST, please.

      • David Jenkins

        Please don’t feed the trolls Dave 🙂

        • Perrico de los Palotes

          Yeah, I forgot that only left wingers & alt-left types enjoy the privilege of being tiresome.

          • Rhett the Butler

            There is no such thing as “alt-left”.

          • Perrico de los Palotes

            Oh?

          • Rhett the Butler

            It is a false equivalency created by the rightwingnut media to try to normalize racist, anti-Semitic white supremacysts.

          • Perrico de los Palotes

            How would that even work?

          • Rhett the Butler

            You like to think you’re so smart and clever, you figure it out.

          • Dave_Skinner

            Oh, that’s right, Counterpunch is perfectly mainstream, right, Butler?

          • Rhett the Butler

            Where did I cite Counterpunch?

  • geraldcuvillier

    AAWWWW! Another overpaid bloviator has to look for another job.

  • Dave_Skinner

    UM has earned its reputation and is going to need a hatchet man to chop off the cancers. Kids can see the difference, and they are voting with their feet. Cats beating the Grizzlies at home had to be the last straw.

    • Gene Dziza

      I agree Dave. There’s going to be some clean up work to do. This is a good step.

      • Tom Clark

        To quote Winston Churchill “Now is not the end, It is not even the beginning of the end. But perhaps, it is, the end of the beginning”.
        They need to clean up both the university and the Board of Regents.

        • Dave_Skinner

          Who appoints the board of regents? Oh, that’s right —

          “The Board consists of seven members appointed by the Governor, and confirmed by the Senate, to seven year overlapping terms. ”

          While the regents aren’t directly at cause for this, the governorship has been controlled by the D party for, um, 12 years, plenty of time to clean up like Tom suggests.

  • David Jenkins

    Too late, what absolute disaster this guy and the Board of Regents have been. Insulting to the citizens of this state something wasn’t done sooner.

  • MontanaDawg

    Sounds like a good first step. They also need to expand/add more academic programs that are in demand. Things will probably improve over time, but the media did a hatchet job on the school ‘culture’, and it has paid the price.

    • Tom Clark

      How can you possibly blame this on the media, the school and city of Missoula did everything possible to cover this up. I feel that some officials from both the university and city broke the law and need to be held accountable. Had they addressed this the way they should have, how many of these rapes and sexual assaults would have been prevented. I would give odds that you are a season ticket holder for Griz games, as I think your perspective is off kilter.

      • MontanaDawg

        I mean the media brought it to the attention of the nation and it became front page news. No, the players shot themselves in the foot and tried to get away with murder. The ‘hatchet job’ I was refering to was how the media destroyed the UM reputation (rightfully so) and it came at a time that Krakauer’s book was hitting the shelf – adding even more negative press to the university.

  • Tom Clark

    About 3 years past due. He has overseen the biggest decline in students in UM history. How can you expect to correct the problem when you will not even acknowledge what the problem is. When a university is nicknamed RapeU by a national publication, why would you think that parents would send their children to school there. Then when enrollment declines, you cut programs, then more kids go elsewhere. It does not help that our local Board of Regents member calls that a sound financial decision. Not only does Engstom need to go, but the Governor needs to replace most of the Board of Regents before anything of substance can take place to fix the problems at U of M. But I will bet the priority will be put towards the football team, who really gives a damn about the students anyway.

  • geraldcuvillier

    Tom Clark, I could not agree more with what you said. If the professors and the board of Regents would focus on giving the students a good education instead of worrying about recruiting the next wave of street thugs for a foot ball team everyone would be a lot better off. The board of regents should focus on recruiting good professors that do not have an agenda.

  • Fast

    Privatization is the answer u can call it ” TRUMP UNIVERSITY # 121 ” western division-
    With the mission statement ” KEEPING THEM AMERINS STUPIDED ”

  • geraldcuvillier

    I knew you had a racist dictionary. Is that an addendum to Saul’s book?

    • Rhett the Butler

      I don’t own either tome, so I wouldn’t know.

  • geraldcuvillier

    Now you are in denial again. At least you are consistent.

    • Rhett the Butler

      You keep repeating yourself. Have you been screened for early onset dementia? You should.

  • geraldcuvillier

    As you read page four of Saul’s book. It is not working with me because I do not care what someone like you says about me. I will be here longer than you.

    • Rhett the Butler

      Sure Frenchy. Suuuure you will.