For the last few months, The Bookstore at the University of Montana has been offering a Darth Vader T-shirt that's gone mostly unnoticed. But it recently came to the attention of UM Bookstore staff that the message on the shirt is pretty inappropriate for a university mired in scandal
over how it handles sexual assault.
The shirts read, "It's Pointless to Resist" and "Montana Grizzlies." They were pulled off shelves Feb. 17.
Matt LaPalm, UM Bookstore marketing director, says the shirts went unnoticed for a few months, possibly because the dark font is difficult to read from a distance.
LaPalm says he doesn't know how the shirts were chosen, but he makes clear the design wasn't done in-house.
"I think that if you went to like the University of Washington bookstore, they would have something that looked identical to that, that says Washington instead of Montana," he says.
In 2013, the Department of Justice concluded an investigation that found UM was not adequately prepared to handle sexual assault
reports. Last year, Jon Krakauer's Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
provided an in-depth case study of how local rape victims were failed by UM, city and county authorities.
The issue is still ongoing: on Feb. 16, the news broke
that former Griz quarterback Jordan Johnson won a $245,000 settlement against UM, claiming he'd been wrongfully expelled over allegations that he raped a fellow student. (Johnson was acquitted of criminal charges in a 2013 trial. The news made the New York Times.)
"When it was brought to us, it’s plain as day that that’s a message we don’t want to associate our university with, even if it’s sort of in context of Star Wars," LaPalm says. "It’s problematic for a number of reasons I think that most of us can relate to. To say that we’re thinking about it would be a big understatement."