Agreements reached in DOJ investigations of UM


MISSOULA, Mont. - The feds reached an agreement with the University of Montana in sexual assault investigations.

At a news conference Thursday, Department of Justice officials outlined two plans for UM and the steps it needs to take to make sure the campus is safe. Officials also praised the school for changes its already made. But investigations into the Missoula County Attorney's Office and the Missoula Police Department are ongoing.

It's all outlined in multiple reports handed out at the press conference

Last year there was doubt.

"We have been given no such information and still do not know what has triggered this investigation," said Missoula County Attorney Fred VanValkenburg at a press conference announcing the investigations in May 2012.

This time the DOJ confirmed the problems at the University of Montana.

"We heard from women who lived through sexual assault and were unfairly belittled, disbelieved, or blamed for speaking up about what was done to them," said Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Roy L. Austin Jr.

Now thanks to a year worth of work UM has some solutions.

"Today I am pleased to stand with University of Montana President Royce Engstrom and to announce agreements with the university that will transform the campus into a national model," said Austin.

It's all outlined in the lengthy reports.

"We have covered extra ordinary ground in the last year," said Austin. "Not only concluding a comprehensive investigation of the university's response to sexual assault but also reaching two agreements to remedy the problems we've found."

One agreement deals with TitleIV, student gender equality. The DOJ outlined steps for UM to take including making sure sex-based harassment polices are clear. And that students and staff are well educated.

"Because of this agreement and institutional reforms all students, men and women, will be safer at the university and in the community," said U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana Michael Cotter.

The second agreement deals with the university's campus police force. Details of that include revising some polices and how officers respond to victims of sexual assault.

"Here at the University of Montana the framework now is in place to attain this goal," Cotter said.

President Royce Engstrom said he will continue to work to make sure UM can move forward.

"We intend to emerge as an institution that had a problem, addressed it head on and emerged as a national leader," said Engstrom.

The big question after Thursday's announcement was what's next?

The DOJ had an answer for that. A staff member unaffiliated with the Department of Justice and the University of Montana will monitor UM's progress with the agreement. Once they've fully complied - the DOJ is out.

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