THIS WILL BE A ROUGH SUMMER FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
Big Sky Country News
June 19, 2012 – 11:20 a.m.
MISSOULA – In a fire sale move that’s likely to continue trickling through the University of Montana administration, UM Vice President Jim Foley stepped aside from his position Tuesday morning, a campus-wide email from President Royce Engstrom confirmed this morning.
Foley’s performance communicating in high-profile affairs—including the recent sexual assault scandal that has left the campus and university town marred by two federal investigations and one by the NCAA—left little doubt that his job was at risk.
Engstrom, who last year launched an internal investigation into the campus’s own handling of sexual assaults, as of late has been clearing the administration that was standing during former president George Dennison’s reign in what Engstrom calls “ongoing cabinet-level adjustments.”
What that means is, Engstrom is clearing house. He’s separating his 2-year spot as head of the school from those that were standing during the lead up to the recent investigations.
Firing Engstrom after less than two years into his presidency would be too brash a move from the Board of Regents, and that won’t likely happen.
Though his fawn deer image was easily blackened over the last year as details of alleged gang rape involving members of the Grizzly football team were coming to light. But when Foley was seen escorting two members of the team to a prominent Missoula law office after a Tasing incident during a post-game football party, storm clouds began building.
Foley’s image continued was further tarnished after emails originally released in a joint FOIA request by the Missoulian and the Wall Street Journal (later acquired by the Montana Kaimin and other Missoula news outlets) showed Foley didn’t take the unraveling of the sexual assaults in the media and the public eye well.
Foley asked whether the university could punish a victim for going public with information on her rape and the process behind it.
After returning to the university in 2005 in his current role, Foley began funneling communications on high profile matters and inquiries by the media directly to him. He would then show an unwillingness to communicate and lack of transparency was an issue.
A poll last week on this site asked visitors to rank how Foley had handled his job as of late. Though there was a moderately low turnout in terms of the size of Missoula, 92 percent of respondents thought Foley had handled his job very poorly, moderately poorly or “EXTREMELY BAD” – as one person wrote. Three people, or 9 percent, responded he was handling his job well.
The move this afternoon leaves Foley in a university licensing and dealing with federal research funding for one year, the email read.
So far this summer, Bob Duringer, UM’s vice president of administration and finance, and David Aronofsky, UM’s chief legal counsel, announced they will retire Dec. 31 this year. Dean of Students Charles Couture has already announced his retirement.
Engstrom unexpectedly fired head coach Robin Pflugrad and athletic director Jim O’Day earlier this year.
Though it was unknown to the public at the time, the NCAA began an investigation into the Athletic Department in January. That investigation was expected to last six months, the association said. That leaves an announcement date—barring any postponements—slated for this July.
The Departments of Justice and Education launched respective investigations into various officials’ handling of 80 sexual assaults in the last three years.
As we’ve stated before on this site, this summer will be a rough one for the University of Montana. Changes in the administration will sting, but this PR is considered positive.