Montana assistant AD rejected relationship classMISSOULA, Mont. — As the University of Montana investigated reports of sexual assaults involving students, the assistant athletic director rejected a suggestion that student-athletes be required to take a course on relationships.
MISSOULA, Mont. — As the University of Montana investigated reports of sexual assaults involving students, the assistant athletic director rejected a suggestion that student-athletes be required to take a course on relationships.
Emails released to the Missoulian on Wednesday indicate then-football coach Robin Pflugrad agreed with a suggestion from the university’s Counselor Education Department that athletes take its “Intimate and Family Relationships” course.
Jean Gee, however, wrote: “I just feel strongly that this is a bad idea.”
Gee, who is now the interim athletic director, argued in February that athletes have little time in their schedules for another elective and suggested the $6,000 cost of adding another section of the class could be better spent elsewhere. She suggested student-athletes could be encouraged to take the course as an elective.
President Royce Engstrom said in January that the investigation into sexual assaults “indicated a disproportionate association with patterns of behavior of a number of student athletes.”
“I think the fact that we worked so hard and quickly to rewrite our student-athlete conduct code is an indication that we had concerns within the athletic program about clarity of expectations,” Engstrom told the Missoulian on Wednesday.
When Engstrom announced plans to hold a public forum in mid-January to give an update on the ongoing investigation into sexual assaults, alumni director Bill Johnston was skeptical, writing to then-athletic director Jim O’Day: “I think this has a huge chance of being a disaster.” He said he didn’t know what Engstrom could say to improve the situation.
Both Johnston and O’Day expressed that they didn’t want to attend the forum, which was held at a Missoula hotel, but they also didn’t want to miss it.
“I might call (a Holiday Inn employee) to see if there is any way we can listen in,” Johnston wrote to O’Day the day before the Jan. 17 forum. Later, Johnston wrote: “I think I will send a friend with a laptop camcorder so I can listen in real time, but I do not want to be seen in the audience.”
At the forum, Engstrom said the university was working to make the school safer by educating students, improving the university’s communication when sexual assaults are reported and reviewing the athletic department’s response to possible sex crimes committed by athletes.
“I think any hint of questioning what is okay or not okay with regard to student athletes relinquishes our ability to do our jobs,” Gee wrote to O’Day in January. “I just worry that if we appear too defensive with Royce right now, he may get angry and then we don’t move forward in any productive way.”
UM’s investigation into allegations of sexual assault involving students turned up 11 cases between September 2010 and February 2012. One student faces a criminal charge.
The Department of Justice is investigating the handling of rape cases by the university, campus police along with Missoula police and prosecutors, while the Department of Education is investigating a sexual discrimination complaint filed in January that names the football program. UM also recently announced that the NCAA has been investigating the football program since late January.