MISSOULA – The federal Department of Education is evaluating a sexual discrimination complaint filed against the University of Montana and its football program, the Missoulian reported Thursday.
The newspaper obtained heavily redacted documents from the department’s Office for Civil Rights under a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Jan. 11 complaint includes the names of President Royce Engstrom, former President George Dennison along with an athletic director and football coach whose names were redacted. However, information before the names is redacted, so it is not clear why they are listed.
The person making the complaint, whose name was redacted in the documents, said they made an initial complaint of “harassment/hostile workplace by football team” through UM’s grievance process. The complainant wrote: “I was told they would be ‘trained.’ Now we have rapes, gang rapes, cover ups…”
The federal Office for Civil Rights enforces Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in every educational program that receives federal funding. If OCR decides to investigate a complaint, it sends a letter of notification to those involved.
The agency is still evaluating the complaint and has not sent a letter to the University of Montana, the OCR told the Missoulian.
Engstrom said Wednesday he was not aware a complaint had been filed until contacted by the newspaper.
Last month, Engstrom relieved athletic director Jim O’Day and football coach Robin Pflugrad of their duties.
The dismissals came after weeks of investigation by the university into allegations of sexual assaults, including alleged gang rapes, involving university of Montana students.
However, Engstrom did not give a reason for not renewing O’Day and Pflugrad’s contracts.
Engstrom has said an independent review of the sexual assaults indicated that part of the problem stemmed from a small number of UM athletes, but he did not single out the football team.
The complaint references several Missoulian stories about the investigation as well as criminal charges filed against current and former football players.
The OCR form asks the complainant to detail why the alleged discrimination is believed to be based on sex or why the action is believed to have been retaliatory.
“There are additional issues now,” the complainant wrote. OCR redacted what followed.
OCR said it redacted some parts of the complaint because disclosure of some details could potentially hamper its investigation or any law enforcement efforts regarding the case.
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