MISSOULA — The University of Montana is making several policy changes after investigating nine reported cases of sexual assault between September 2010 and December 2011, President Royce Engstrom said Thursday.
“The events of the past few months have delivered a critical message to the university,” Engstrom wrote. “We have learned much that will help us to be a safer community, fostering a learning environment in which our students can fulfill their dreams. Now we must focus on the goal of eliminating sexual assault from our campus.”
Engstrom said the student conduct code now applies both on campus and off campus with regard to assault and will be applied even if criminal charges aren’t filed. The conduct code will require a “preponderance of evidence” in proving an assault, a lesser standard than the previous “clear and convincing” evidence.
The school plans to continue educating students about preventing sexual assault. Most university employees will be required to report assaults they learn about to the university’s Title IX coordinator, unless federal health privacy laws prohibit such reporting.
“This change does not require that the employee report the victim’s name absent the victim’s consent, and it does respect victim privacy and confidentiality concerns at all times,” Engstrom wrote.
The school is creating two panels to review such cases, one of which will hear cases involving student-athletes. Engstrom said the Athletic Conduct Team, not coaches, will determine sanctions for athletes for all conduct code violations.
Sexual assaults will be reviewed by a team including Engstrom, UM’s legal counsel, its vice presidents for student affairs and external relations, the dean of students, director of public safety and the Title IX coordinator. The team will determine how to move forward with the students involved and possible reporting to law enforcement.
The Athletic Conduct Team will include the athletics director, the senior associate athletics director, and the faculty athletic director. The team will enforce the new conduct code, which places infractions in three categories. Category I violations, such as any assault or felony drunken driving, will result in dismissal from the team upon the first offense.
A special investigation by former Supreme Court Justice Diane Barz addressed nine allegations of sexual assault, and all nine cases have been investigated, Engstrom said.
Four of the cases resulted in student conduct code action against eight students. Five are no longer at school and three are appealing their sanctions, Engstrom said. Three cases lacked evidence of assault, and two cases were not pursued by the victims.
Suspended Montana running back Beau Donaldson was charged in January with sexual intercourse without consent for an alleged September 2010 assault.
Two other cases of reported assault have become public since Barz finished her investigation, Engstrom noted.
“In one case, the perpetrator fled the country. He will not be allowed back to the university, and federal authorities have been notified,” Engstrom said. The other case is pending in the student conduct code process.
“The closure of the investigation does not mean that we will be a campus free of sexual assault,” Engstrom wrote. He said UM must continue to do everything it can to eliminate sexual assault from the university, to care for the victims as effectively and compassionately as possible and remove known sexual predators from the campus community.
Montana State University officials reported a rape just east of campus via their emergency alert system early Friday.
KTVM-TV reports the alert said a woman was raped in an area of South Third and Garfield at about 11:30 p.m. Thursday.
The suspect is described as a white man between the ages of 18 and 20, with shaggy curly brown hair. He was wearing glasses, wearing a dark hoody and MSU sweat pants.
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