This month, UM found itself having to respond to two students who claimed their access to equal opportunity and a discrimination-free campus was violated. We are not necessarily interested in the respective validity of these two claims, but instead in the radically different ways President Seth Bodnar chose to respond to each of them.
About two weeks ago, a UM psychology and political science student was tabling in the UC for the right-wing nonprofit Turning Point USA (TPUSA) when she encountered a group of students who, she claims, told her to “fuck your organization.”
The TPUSA member claimed that these students had been sent to her table by their professor to provoke her as well as her fellow TPUSA members. After the incident, this student filed a report to UM’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office, receiving a prompt response that they would be investigating her claim.
Several days later, President Seth Bodnar sent out a campus wide email addressing this incident, stating that a student had recently felt harassed due to her “expression of politically conservative views” and that UM takes “all allegations of dis- crimination and harassment very seriously.”
Some details not mentioned in President Seth Bodnar’s email include the fact that TPUSA maintains a professor watchlist (on which several UM professors have been listed) and that according to TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk, the expressed goal of these watchlists is to document and expose “college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” This, however, was not the only alleged discriminatory event to take place at UM this month. There was also the case of an off-campus field trip in which an indigenous UM student witnessed the use of a slur historically wielded against Montana’s Chippewa Cree population.
This student requested a meeting with President Bodnar to discuss a formal process by which facilitators of off-campus field trips might be held to the same codes of conduct as those employed by UM. Despite the student’s request that a reporter be present, Kaimin reporters were refused entry by UM spokesperson Paula Short, informed that this would be a closed meeting.
So, President Bodnar’s response to the offended conservative student was to send out a campus-wide email, while his response to the aggrieved indigenous student was to make sure no one outside the confines of the meeting knew the incident took place.
In his email, President Bodnar justified the seriousness with which his administration takes allegations of discrimination and harassment with the claim that they “believe in the dignity and worth of every member of our community.” It would be nice to see that tenet applied more consistently by this administration.