University of Montana students and professors are uneasy with the climate of self-censorship that is already developing following the university’s resolution agreement with the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Education (ED), reports the UM student newspaper, Montana Kaimin.
Reporter Ashley Nerbovig captures several perspectives on problematic aspects of the resolution agreement and UM’s new policies, including provisions (PDF) requiring that the school send DOJ the names of students and professors who do not complete training sessions on sexual harassment and assault. The article contains a particularly startling piece of information concerning President Royce Engstrom:
[President Engstrom] said on Thursday that he hadn’t realized there was a possibility of student’s names being sent to the DOJ, but that he is not involved in all the nuances of the document.
That seems like a pretty big oversight. The resolution agreement plainly states:
[T]he University will provide [the United States with] the date and duration of each student training session required by this Agreement; … and a list of any students who have yet to participate in the online or in-person training required by Section VIII.D.
The resolution agreement contains a similar provision regarding faculty training sessions:
[T]he University will provide the United States with the sign-in sheets of each employee by name and job title for each training required by Sections V.A, V.B, and V.C. of this Agreement, and a list of any University employee who failed to participate in such training by name and title.
Once made aware of these requirements, President Engstrom acknowledged that they were problematic:
“I think the concern everybody has is that [the agreement] does have the potential to interfere with freedom of speech,” Engstrom said. “I agree that it’s inappropriate, so we’re working to get that changed.”
While we are certainly happy that President Engstrom is now working to resolve this aspect of the agreement, we can’t help but think that he might have been able to more swiftly and effectively address the “inappropriateness” of infringing on students’ and professors’ rights before his signature made the resolution a legally binding document.
Read the rest of what President Engstrom, professors, and students had to say in the Montana Kaimin.
Image: University of Montana President Royce Engstrom - Montana Public Media