Montana University officials are condemning accusations of unfair hiring practices at the University of Montana. The charge is leveled by a group of community members and UM faculty.
The Missoulian newspaper reported today that UM Provost Perry Brown hired members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to fill at least three top-level administrative positions. Brown himself is reportedly an active member of the LDS church.
Kevin McRae is spokesman for the Commissioner of Higher Education. He says the accusation of religious favoritism is patently false.
"I’m the chief Human Resources officer for the university system. We are prohibited from asking about or handling in any way someone’s religious affiliation.”
UM President Royce Engstrom calls the accusations “ludicrous” and “sad”. He also left the door open for potential legal recourse.
Professor Doug Coffin is a member of the University of Montana Advocacy Coalition, the group cited in the Missoulian article. Coffin says the group is concerned about poor hiring practices within the Montana University System. He says they’re specifically worried about an overall lack of transparency and too much ‘inside' hiring. But Coffin says the coalition has never complained about religious favoritism:
“Because we found that particular allegation to have no merit. There are, however, rumors on campus of discriminatory hiring practices. This is not a good thing.”
Doug Coffin says morale on the UM Mountain campus is rock bottom. The university is cutting its budget to reflect an ongoing enrollment decline. Twenty seven employee layoffs, and elimination of over 190 full-time positions were announced last week.