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UM law school deans step down after students protest their handling of sexual harassment claims

 University of Montana Alexander Blewett III School of Law building.
Ray Ekness
Montana Public Radio
University of Montana Alexander Blewett III School of Law building.

The dean and associate dean of students at the University of Montana’s School of Law are stepping down from their leadership positions. Earlier this week students protested their handling of sexual misconduct allegations.

The Daily Montanan first reported last week that students say they were deterred by law school leaders from reporting allegations of sexual misconduct.

Dean Paul Kirgis announced Thursday morning that he and Associate Dean of Students Sally Weaver are stepping down. Kirgis will remain a tenured faculty member.

After the Daily Montanan story broke, students walked out of class in protest and rallied on campus, calling on Kirgis and Weaver to resign. Law student Annie Holland helped organize the event.

“We’re in support of sexual assault and domestic abuse survivors. And while the administration may be mishandling their claims, we are here in support of them.”

Holland noted that the law school isn’t alone in facing scrutiny at UM. University President Seth Bodnar is being sued by nearly two dozen staff and faculty for alleged gender discrimination. In 2012, federal authorities investigated the Missoula flagship for mishandling sexual assault allegations.

In an email to students last Friday, Kirgis apologized for not having done a “better job of ensuring students, and in particular women students, feel they can safely raise issues of concern.”

In a written statement Thursday, Bodnar said he supports the dean’s decision.

MTPR Reporter Freddy Monares contributed reporting to this story. 

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.