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UM responds to sexual discrimination lawsuit 

The University of Montana responded in court on Oct. 18 to the lawsuit filed against it in August, which alleged discrimination on the basis of sex. 

UM filed three court documents — a partial motion to dismiss, a brief in support of the motion to dismiss and an answer to claims — all of which challenge accusations made in August that President Seth Bodnar fostered a “good ol’ boys’ club” environment at UM that was a “brick wall” to the plaintiffs’ careers. 

The August suit was filed by four plaintiffs: Catherine Cole, Barbara Koostra, Mary-Ann Sontag Bowman and Rhondie Voorhees. Cole, Koostra and Voorhees no longer work at UM; Bowman is still a tenured professor in the school of social work. 

“Today’s action is really the starting point in the University’s defense,” said Dave Kuntz, UM’s director of strategic communications and the University’s spokesperson for this lawsuit. 

Most notably, UM filed a motion to dismiss Bowman’s claims in the August lawsuit. Her claims centered on the only tenured male professor in the School of Social Work being encouraged to re-apply for the position of department chair, closing Bowman’s opportunity for professional growth. 

To read the Kaimin’s full coverage on this developing story, visit montanakaimin.com. (Mariah Thomas)

 

ASUM resolution calls for better campus lighting  

On Oct. 13, the Associated Students of the University of Montana unanimously passed a resolution, Senate Bill 24, to fund the University of Montana Main Campus External Lighting Upgrade Project. This follows a Sept. 29 resolution encouraging UM to install and maintain more safety stations and security cameras around campus. 

This project will install more than 300 more light fixtures around campus, as well as some surveillance cameras, and cost $2.2 million. 

“The increase in lighting would respond to the demands of many students for better safety measures on campus, and will also reduce our energy consumption with the introduction of LED lights,” ASUM’s President Noah Durnell said. 

The resolution cites the responsibility of UM and ASUM to protect students and that there have been at least 20 crimes each month on the Main Campus this year, according to the Clery Act documentation. The resolution said the University only has 364 street lights out of the 670 that reach the “recommended illumination value” by the Illumination Engineering Society. 

Durnell said the external lighting and maintenance on campus would be overseen by the University, rather than Northwestern Energy. 

“The result is incredible cost and energy savings for the University; the project will even pay itself back in just 24 years,” Durnell said. (Mazana Boerboom)

 

COVID-19 update

The City County Health Department reported no new UM-affiliated COVID-19 cases last weekend. There were 111 active UM cases Monday, the third week in a row the University has hovered above 100 active cases.

Countywide, active cases peaked at 2,700 cases earlier in the month, Missoula’s worst spike since the start of the pandemic. The region is still overwhelmed with COVID-19, as the health department reported 2,500 total active cases and 59 active hospitalizations Monday. 

Deaths from the virus are on the rise, as more than 20 county residents have died from COVID-19 since the start of October, including five deaths on Oct. 14. Since the start of the pandemic, 148 county residents have died from COVID-19. 

“We’reseeing a significant loss of life in our community — it is devastating. We need to come together as a community and practice the precautions we know work to limit the spread of disease and ultimately the loss of life in our community. We send our sincerest condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of everyone lost to this terrible virus,” Health Officer D’Shane Barnett stated in a press release. 

The Mayo Clinic reported Friday that Montana had one of the highest COVID-19 incidence rates in the nation, second only to Alaska. 

In Missoula, people between 20-29 represent 17% of all the county’s cases, but remain the lowest vaccinated adult group, at 48%. (Griffen Smith)

 

Ballots due for local election 

As races for city council and mayor are fewer than two weeks away, the County Elections Office recommended voters send their ballots back by Oct. 26 via mail. 

“After that date, you should probably come down to the election office to turn your ballot in,” County Election Officer Bradley Seaman said. 

The all-mail election comes as the Montana State Legislature passed multiple laws limiting how and when people can vote. The last day to register to vote in Montana is Oct. 29 at noon, marking the first election in the state since ending same-day voter registration. 

Montanans also cannot change what county they vote in on election day. In the Missoula election, voters can update their precinct on election day. 

Anyone using a Montana student ID must also present a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or government document showing their name and address.

Ballots can be returned when the elections office is open at its Russell Street location. There is also an option to vote in-person from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 2. The office will also have extended hours for the week leading up to election day and satellite locations across the county for voters to drop ballots off on election day. 

All ballots are due in the office by 8 p.m. Nov. 2 For more information, visit the elections office webpage. (GS)