MISSOULA — 4 former and latest superior-ranking woman personnel at the University of Montana sued the school Wednesday, alleging its administration has established a “retaliatory culture” that punishes women of all ages professionals who problem its authority.

“UM did not produce a glass ceiling for these women’s careers,” the lawsuit reported. “UM made a brick wall for these women’s professions.”

The lawsuit, filed in federal court docket in Missoula, seeks damages for the plaintiffs and a ruling that UM is violating Title IX of federal regulation, which forbids discrimination against ladies at educational establishments that get federal funding.

The match also singled out UM President Seth Bodnar, noting that his prior profession has been with Standard Electric powered and the armed forces – two entities with a report of discrimination from girls, the suit said.

Mike Dennison-MTN News

University of Montana President Seth Bodnar.

“For skilled ladies at UM, their currently limited paths to qualified good results quickly narrowed,” the match explained. “Under President Bodnar’s management … youth, perceived attractiveness and/or health and fitness ended up appropriate things for girls navigating a prosperous path.

“It was well-recognised that less than President Bodnar, the occupations of athletic-built females thrived, whilst more mature, considerably less beautiful females have been publicly critiqued.”

UM spokesman Dave Kuntz instructed MTN Information that the college and the condition university system – also a defendant in the lawsuit – “strongly consider these claims are baseless and with no benefit.”

“We glimpse forward to vigorously defending our establishments in court,” he mentioned in a assertion. “The College of Montana is fully commited to delivering a doing work and learning setting that is no cost of all varieties of discrimination.”

Even though the lawsuit has just 4 plaintiffs now, one particular of the attorneys symbolizing the women, Hillary Carls of Bozeman, mentioned she suspects other women industry experts at UM have experienced similar experiences, and that they can be additional as plaintiffs as they occur ahead.

The plaintiffs who submitted the go well with Wednesday are Catherine Cole, a former UM vice president Barbara Koostra, former director of the Montana Museum of Art and Tradition at UM Rhondie Vorhees, previous dean of college students at UM and Mary-Ann Sontag Bowman, an associate professor of social do the job at UM.

All 4 females said they faced discrimination and retaliation – specifically right after they disagreed with or disputed choices created by Bodnar and the UM administration.

The lawsuit stated UM’s athletic plans, these types of as the men’s soccer application, fostered a “good ol’ boys club” culture that excluded ladies from routines and benefits “regularly afforded to male counterparts.”


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Catherine Cole, previous UM vice president.

A single of the plaintiffs, Catherine Cole, experienced been hired in 2018 as the college’s VP for enrollment administration and strategic interaction. Her job was to assistance UM get better from declining enrollment, in the wake of sexual-assault scandals and investigations throughout the 2010s, the match explained.

But irrespective of “countless praise and accolades” for her performance, Bodnar micromanaged her, altered her task obligations, explained to her she was “moody,” belittled her and commented on her appearance and weight, the suit explained.

Cole resigned last yr and the university also terminated her husband’s place at UM as a type of retaliation, the go well with stated.

Koostra, the museum director, mentioned her office environment was moved to a constructing afterwards found to be contaminated with asbestos and her agreement not renewed, immediately after she objected to Bodnar’s request to location some of the museum’s beneficial artwork in a downtown hotel, the accommodate claimed.


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Rhondie Vorhees, previous UM dean of college students.

And Vorhees, the previous dean of pupils, stated she was generally overruled or disregarded on issues of campus basic safety, for college students and other folks, and that her posture sooner or later was eliminated in 2018, the go well with explained.

Sherine Blackford, one more Bozeman lawyer symbolizing the plaintiffs, advised MTN Information that Title IX is “a pretty wide and sweeping statute” that forbids discrimination towards women, in many varieties.

“The way that (discrimination) can be pervasive is to generate a retaliatory lifestyle, making an setting that is not automatically black-and-white sexual harassment, but something in which gals don’t receive the very same cure as adult men, and as a result, their gain that they would have received at the instructional establishment exactly where they have been employed (is) not the identical,” she reported.