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Montana News

UM Faces Lawsuit Over Alleged Gender Discrimination

University of Montana Main Hall
Freddy Monares
/
Montana Pubic Radio
University of Montana Main Hall

A group of current and former female employees is accusing the University of Montana of discrimination based on their gender.

The suit was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Missoula by Mary-Ann Sontag Bowman, a tenured associate professor in the school of social work; Barbara Koostra, former Director of the Montana Museum of Art and Culture; Catherine Cole, former vice president of enrollment management strategic communication; and Rhondie Voorhees, former dean of students.

Koostra previously worked as a music host for Montana Public Radio and Cole oversaw the Broadcast Media Center, which includes MTPR, as an administrator at the University of Montana. The Montana State University System and UM are listed as Defendants in the suit.

UM Spokesman Dave Kuntz said the university “strongly believes these claims are baseless and without merit.” He said the university is committed to providing a working and learning environment free from discrimination.

“We look forward to vigorously defending our institutions in court,” Kuntz said.

In the suit, the women said the university fostered what they call a “good ol’ boys club” culture, allegedly excluding women from benefits enjoyed by male counterparts.

They say the UM administration, including President Seth Bodnar, failed to stop the discriminatory behavior, and allege that under President Bodnar “youth, perceived attractiveness, and/or fitness were relevant factors for women navigating a successful path.”