The University of Montana’s Alexander Blewett III School of Law found itself at the center of a massive controversy as multiple students went to the local media charging that the school’s administration systematically downplayed, discouraged, and intimidated students reporting Title IX allegations. The allegations prompted a student walkout and pledges from the school to conduct an “independent review.”
Yesterday afternoon, the administration bowed to the pressure.
In a Thursday email to the law school community, [Dean Paul] Kirgis wrote: “I have come to the conclusion that the school of law and its students would be best served by a change in leadership.” The email also stated that Sally Weaver, an associate dean at the law school, is stepping aside from her position.
Kirgis will remain at the school but out of the leadership role. The ABA Journal report doesn’t specify if Weaver’s decision to step aside involves leaving the school or not.
Kigris and Weaver were both specifically identified in the original Daily Montanan report. While both denied any wrongdoing at the time, the testimonials in the article painted a picture of — at best — bland indifference to their Title IX obligations. Kirgis was accused of failing to pass along full details of an allegation that came to his attention as a mandatory reporter. Weaver was called out for failing to meet mandatory reporting obligations, routinely questioning the sincerity of allegations and suggesting to students that pursuing matters “would reflect negatively on [a] Character and Fitness application for admission to the State Bar.”
It was untenable for the leadership to remain in the face of these accusations. Without the trust of the students, there’s no path forward. Even if it turns out that these failings were less malicious than clueless, the school needs to bring in a fresh administration.
Preferably one who takes good notes in the Title IX trainings.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.