University of Montana President Royce Engstrom for the first time this week publicly detailed findings of an ongoing investigation into allegations that UM student athletes have engaged in recent sexual assaults.
“To be clear, we do not know that recent sexual assaults have been restricted to the student athlete population,” Engstrom said. “But our investigations have indicated an association with patterns of behavior of a small number of student athletes.”
Engstrom spoke before a crowd of more than 100 people including parents, students and state and local policy makers who gathered for the UM-hosted community forum at Missoula’s Holiday Inn Downtown at the Park Jan. 17. Engstrom said that his administration first learned of the allegations in early December when two female students reported to a school employee that they had been assaulted in two separate incidents this past fall.
Upon learning of the allegations, UM immediately contacted city and campus law enforcement, Engstrom said. One week later, the school hired former Montana Supreme Court Justice Diane Barz to lead an investigation.
During Barz’s inquiry, UM administrators have learned of three additional assault allegations. UM is now investigating five alleged incidents.
Engstrom said his administration only recently learned that a female UM student filed a police report in December 2010 accusing four UM students of sexually assaulting her. A campus employee, who was told of the allegation by police, did not report the incident to his supervisor. “While it should have been reported up the line, no additional action could have been taken without the female herself reporting this to us,” Engstrom said.
He laid out a multi-pronged plan to ensure student safety in the future. It includes streamlining communication, conducting educational outreach, clearly defining athletic codes of conduct and strengthening existing sexual assault reporting protocols.
“Sexual assault is intolerable at the university,” he said.
Several community members spoke during the forum. Associated Students of the University of Montana President Jen Gursky said that it’s important the campus community work to ensure victims of sexual assault feel comfortable coming forward.
Engstrom said he expects to be given additional findings from Barz’s investigation by the end of this month. UM will hold a forum for students to discuss the allegations Jan. 25.