UM Vice President Sought to Punish Alleged Rape Victim, Emails Reveal

Monday, May 21, 2012

University of Montana Vice President Jim Foley was so upset that an alleged rape victim spoke publicly about UM’s handling of her case that he asked whether action could be taken against her under the Student Code of Conduct.

“Is it not a violation of the student code of conduct for the woman to be publicly talking about the process and providing details about the conclusion?” Foley emailed then-Dean of Students Charles Couture in March. “Help me understand please.”

The Missoulian obtained the email and others in a joint Freedom of Information Act request with the Wall Street Journal. Couture’s response to Foley was not included in the emails released to the newspapers.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that the university and its campus police, as well as the Missoula Police Department and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, are the subjects of a first-of-its-kind investigation into how they handle sexual assault allegations.

The emails show university administrators struggling to contain a scandal that grew inexorably from UM’s announcement in mid-December that it had hired an outside investigator to look into reports that two female students had been gang-raped by several male students in separate incidents.

The very use of the term gang rape by several media outlets – the university always has described alleged assaults involving one female and several male students as “date rapes” – set off a testy email exchange initiated by Foley to Couture, UM legal counsel David Aronofsky, and Lucy France, UM’s director of equal opportunity and affirmative action.

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