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UM President Responds to ‘Hateful’ Email on MLK, Jr. Day

Seth Bodner 1On the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, University of Montana President Seth Bodnar sent an email to ‘the University of  Montana Family’ responding to a ‘hateful email’ that was sent out to a number of individuals on campus.

Communications Director Paula Short said on Monday, that President Bodnar wanted to let the campus know that the ideas expressed in the email do not represent the values at the University of Montana.

“President Bodnar responded to an email that was sent to a significant subset of employees and staff that contained hateful language and targeted some minority groups,” said Short. “Our IT folks are looking to see how far that email was distributed in that a large number of faculty and staff on campus did receive it. The content and timing were meant to coincide with the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday/”

Short said President Bodnar took the opportunity to clearly express the values on campus.

“The President wanted to reaffirm our community values from the university, so a message was sent from the president to all faculty, staff and students on campus on Sunday,” she said. “It was an acknowledgement that these kinds of things do happen, and that our campus community stands united against that hateful rhetoric that is out there. The President’s email was an affirmation of our values of inclusivity, diversity and respect for all people and an opportunity for the campus to unite and remember that particularly on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday that were are very much vigilant in our quest for equality for all people.”

Following is the text of President Bodnar’s email;

Dear University of Montana family,

As you know, we live in a time of significant polarization in our society. While a diverse range of ideas and political perspectives is healthy for any community, when hatred and bigotry are allowed to infect our discourse, they create easy pathways into discrimination, segregation and division. Our university has been, and must always be, a place that encourages the thoughtful, informed, respectful exchange of ideas, and we resoundingly reject hatred and bigotry in all forms. This week we are proud to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who dedicated his life to helping us all rise above our differences and work toward greater equity for all.

Late last night, a group of UM faculty and staff were targeted by a hateful email that expressed ideas that are against everything Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for and that are counter to our shared UM belief in the dignity of every person. The email was an affront to our values and what we as a community believe and seek to uphold. To all who received the email, we are saddened and diminished by this act of hatred, and we support you. We are investigating its origin and will take appropriate action.

Sadly, this is not the first time an email like this has been received on our campus and it will not be the last. We will continue to receive them and each time, we will respond appropriately and in a timely manner. Be assured we will act swiftly and surely on behalf of our students, faculty and staff.

We believe in the freedom an education brings, but this freedom is only possible when we speak out against hate and continue the necessary work to be inclusive of all. We continue that work today on myriad fronts. The work of many on campus, including student groups, points toward a UM family that seeks to build a welcoming and inclusive campus for all. This is ongoing work that is, as the hateful email highlights, still necessary.

As we acknowledge that UM sits on aboriginal lands and as we celebrate MLK Day as a “day on,” let us remember that we still have work to do to build a more inclusive and equitable society. The message sent last night is but one example of how hatred, allowed to fester, can undo the good work of many. Let this not be the case here. Instead, let this be an opportunity for us all to come together — to unite, not divide.

I encourage you to join us for the MLK Day community celebration tomorrow (Monday) at 6 p.m. at St. Anthony Catholic Parish, 217 Tremont St.

Thank you for the opportunity to address this matter. This message is being sent to all students and employees at our university because, though not everyone received the email mentioned above, we are all members of this community, and our shared commitment to a safe and inclusive community unites us.

Seth

A copy of the original email was not available to KGVO News.

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