University of Montana President Royce Engstrom returned to his office Wednesday after being out of the country for 10 days. It?s the first time he?s been on campus since UM administrators? emails were made public in a series of stories in the Missoulian. The emails pertained to the subject of alleged sexual assaults involving UM students.
Engstrom sat down for an interview with NBC Montana to discuss his reactions to emails and what?s next for UM.
Engstrom said Wednesday he's still sifting through the emails that were released to the public, and that they?re a reflection of 'internal discussions.'
He didn't have a problem with the public looking at the emails. ?The public has a right to see that information. We're a public institution. I have no quarrel with that whatsoever,? Engstrom said.
But he worries what the public can't see is a group of administrators frustrated by a situation they didn't know how to handle. ?I think you also saw a certain amount of frustration internally. People are working very hard on this matter.?
It started with allegations of a gang rape, a special investigation with a report released in March that found nine alleged rapes related to the university, a flaw in its policy on how sex crimes were reported, and an immediate recommendation for change.
Then this week's news, that included an email reportedly from Vice President and UM Spokesman of Jim Foley. In it he questioned whether the student conduct code should be used after the victim publicly questioned the way the university handled her report.
?He may not have done that in the most tactful way,? said Engstrom.
But Engstrom said he doesn't think Foley wanted to punish the student. He said administrators always take a look at the student conduct policy, but now it's time to start looking at how they communicate with the public.
?We need to look a little bit more at our communication with the public,? said Engstrom. ?Obviously interactions with the media. I want to think hard about how we do a better job at that.?
One subject President Engstrom didn't want to address was the firing of football coach Robin Pflugrad. A university email says that Pflugrad knew about an alleged sexual assault, but didn't report it to his supervisor. NBC Montana asked Engstrom if that had anything to do with the coach's dismissal.
?I made a decision I felt I had to make for the benefit of the university going forward. That's all I?m going to say about that,? he said.
After all of the questions from the media Wednesday, Engstrom will face the Board of Regents at their scheduled meeting, in Havre Thursday. They?ll most likely have questions of their own.
To see the full interview click here.