Department of Justice wraps up UM Sexual assault investigation

fedengstrom A yearlong federal investigation into whether or not the University of Montana mishandled reports of sexual assault on campus is over. Both sides say the resulting agreement to protect students will prove to be the gold standard among American universities.
The joint Department of Justice and Department of Education’s investigation started just over a year ago after 11 assaults involving university students were reported over an 18-month period. Investigators wanted to know if gender discrimination affected the response of local law enforcement and university officials.
During today’s press conference, Montana U-S Attorney Michael Cotter was flanked by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division’s Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Roy Austin and U-M President Royce Engstrom. Cotter says Engstrom has made several “bold and difficult” decisions over the past year-and-a-half. He says the investigation did not focus on any one specific campus department, that investigators took a campus-wide approach and found several areas of concern; namely a number of women victims saying they were belittled and feared retaliation if they pursed their complaints.
U-M and the Department of Justice reached two agreements. The first requires the university to take several steps; those include, but are not limited to:
* providing prompt resolutions of complaints of sex-based harassment
* training all members of the campus community.
* implementing of a system to thoroughly track  complaints of sex-based harassment
* and instituting a system to evaluate U-M’s progress.
The second agreement addresses the role of U-M’s campus police force and how it responds to sexual assault reports. That agreement requires several steps including one to work with an independent monitor, community-based organizations and other stakeholders to develop and implement the reforms. Those entities will also evaluate the campus police department’s progress.
While the D-o-J’s investigation into U-M is now complete, a separate investigation continues into local law enforcement’s response to sexual assault cases. Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenberg last year vigorously disputed the D-o-J’s authority to investigate his office. Austin says Van Valkenberg has not budged from that position.
Austin says the D-o-J has the authority to try to take legal action against non-cooperating agencies, but adds both sides are -quote – “continuing to talk”.
U-M President Engstrom says there’s little doubt the federal investigation into U-M’s handling of sexual assault allegations has hurt enrollment. Engstrom says the closure of the investigation will “put people’s minds at ease knowing the university is working diligently on creating one of the safest campus environments anywhere.”
While the federal investigation into U-M is now closed, the N-C-A-A’s investigation into the school’s football program is ongoing.

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