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Press Conference Statement from President Engstrom

February 29, 2012

Among The University of Montana's greatest assets is our community of Missoula. I am proud to stand here with Mayor Engen today in this joint effort to make our University and our Community a safer place. Our direction for the University is Building a University for the Global Century and a key aspect of that is to create one of the most effective and dynamic learning environments in public higher education. In recent months, we have become acutely aware of a serious threat to our students, the threat of sexual assault. It is our priority to keep our students safe from sexual assault, to care for them if they are assaulted, and to do everything in our power to find and remove assaulters. As we have seen, this is an enormous task, one that requires the full power of our cooperative relationship between campus and community.

Going forward, there are two important areas upon which we must focus. The first is education about how absolutely intolerable sexual assault is, about what resources are available to victims of sexual assault, how to report a sexual assault, and about how we can help keep each other safe. The second is about communication: on campus, within the community, and between our police forces. We have in place a strong working relationship between city and university, and with this announcement, we are pledging to build on that relationship to create a safer environment. An important component of that relationship is to encourage victims of sexual assault to report to law enforcement. There may exist some confusion over how to report sexual assault. There is an approach that will eliminate the confusion, and that is to dial 911 to report an assault.

The UM Student Assault Resource Center, SARC, is a tremendous resource for victims. It is designed specifically to be a confidential source of care and information; it is not a reporting mechanism in and of itself. At SARC, advocates will provide information about reporting for both legal and Student Conduct Code purposes. They will also provide access to a rape kit and counseling if necessary. The folks at SARC do a great job. But a direct and immediate reporting mechanism is available through 911.

We will work together to prevent sexual assault, to provide comfort to victims when it happens, and to find and deal with perpetrators. We will redouble our efforts so that Missoula and the University attain a reputation for one of the most effective learning environments, but also one of the safest. Thank you.