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U. of Montana Won’t Report Names of Faculty to Government for Missing Sexual Misconduct Training

The Missoulian reported earlier this month that the University of Montana (UM) will not report to the federal government a list of names of faculty members who do not complete training on sexual misconduct. The announcement breaks with the requirements set forth by the university’s May 9 agreement with the Departments of Justice and Education (also known as the “blueprint”).

This is a positive and significant change from the resolution agreement provision that earned criticism from FIRE as well as UM faculty.

UM Legal Counsel Lucy France commented to the Missoulian:

“There was a concern in the resolution agreement that the university would provide names of people who completed or did not complete employee training,” France said. “DOJ has agreed that we don’t have to provide those names.”

France said the university instead will report compliance by sector, such as the College of Arts and Sciences, or other schools within the larger university.

The provision had stated (PDF), in relevant part:

[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.

This is not UM’s first departure from the blueprint. As FIRE has noted, UM’s definition of “sexual harassment” is narrower than that specified by the blueprint and includes a requirement that conduct punishable as harassment be objectively offensive. Further, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon stated in a recent letter to FIRE that the so-called “blueprint” does not represent OCR or DOJ policy but instead is a resolution of UM’s case in particular.

Not all faculty concerns will be alleviated by this most recent change, though; professors who do not complete training may still be identifiable through their departments. And students’ rights are still at risk, as it is unclear whether the change in reporting requirements applies to students. Per the blueprint, those accused of sexual harassment may still be subject to discipline even if there has been no finding of wrongdoing. The blueprint also requires UM to “track[] and review[] reports” of potential harassment and to maintain a database of information including the name of the accused student, “including reports that do not result in the filing of a discrimination complaint.” This database must then be sent to “the United States.” This means that even a meritless claim may result in an accused student’s name being on file with the federal government indefinitely.

UM must continue to work to revise its policies to ensure that the rights of all students, faculty, and staff are fully protected.

Image: “University of Montana” - Flickr user Wesley Fryer 

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