Tuesday, December 7, 2021
HomeFacultyUMontana Prof on Leave for Statements on Women, Islam

UMontana Prof on Leave for Statements on Women, Islam

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The University of Montana (UM) has put a tenured professor on paid leave after discovering that he maintained a blog for nearly a decade in which he disparaged women, Muslims, and the LGBTQ+ community.

UM’s student-run newspaper Montana Kaimin reported that computer science professor Rob Smith’s (now-deleted) blog “Upward Thought” was discovered by departmental Chair Jesse Johnson, who immediately flagged his colleague’s statements to school officials.

In a post titled “Counsel to young women,” Smith writes, “Your physical attractiveness is your most valuable asset in finding a husband,” adding, “This value peaks from 16-18, fades slowly until 25, then starts fading quickly. Your pool of potential husbands shrinks significantly with every year past 18.” 

Smith’s deprecating statements about women were followed by similar attacks on LGBTQ+ people and Muslims. “The fact is that one cannot both be a peaceful Muslim and a faithful Muslim. In other words, Muslims are only peaceful to the degree that they are not Muslims,” he writes.

Excommunicated from the Mormon church, Smith cited Mormon texts and other scriptures in his defense. He also runs a YouTube channel that echoes sentiments from the blog. Computer Science Chair Johnson corroborated the videos include Smith’s voice.

School Statement

UM President Seth Bodnar tweeted that he was “personally disgusted by the homophobic and misogynistic views. Building a culture of respect, empowerment, and equity is foundational to our mission at UM as well as personally important to me. I have directed the appropriate university officials to take immediate action to address this matter through investigatory and supportive measures.”

The university clarified that it cannot take action against Smith because, although his statements run contrary to campus values, he is shielded by his First Amendment rights. Unless Title IX finds discrimination or harassment in his actions, UM cannot fire him or take any other legal action.

Student Response

Students have voiced their unhappiness with the school’s response. Last weekend, about 150 students gathered at the Main Hall to demand Smith’s termination. 

“His comments and behavior make it unacceptable for him to remain a university professor, where he requires young women to visit him alone during his office hours,” computer science student Betta Lyon Delsordo said.

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