Thursday, March 7, 2013

Stand with Pat

Posted on Thu, Mar 7, 2013 at 4:00 AM

We have known Pat in a variety of contexts: one served with Carol Williams in the Legislature, a couple of us have counted Pat (and Carol) as friends for a number of years and one of us worked with Pat at the University of Montana. We know Pat Williams as more than just a University regent.

As a former UM student, faculty member and the parent of three UM graduates, Pat has dedicated his career and adult life to making the University of Montana a better place for students to grow and learn. Pat Williams has spent his entire career working on behalf of education and students, and speaking up for the most vulnerable.

His commitment to the University of Montana is deep, genuine and unwavering. For decades of service to Montana, Pat has always given us straight talk. He speaks up, challenges assumptions and authority and speaks truth, and his values reflect ours. His prodigious storytelling skills are legendary, but they are more than stories; Pat is a Montana historian like few others and he cares deeply about higher education.

He chaired the Committee on Postsecondary Education in the U.S. Congress, served as a trustee or director on numerous national boards and has experience to offer the regents and the university system as they chart a course forward for all of Montana students. Because of all of these things, Pat is imminently qualified to serve on the Montana Board of Regents.

We often feel in Montana like public institutions belong to us, as well we should. The Board of Regents is charged with the governance of the University system, not the marketing of it.

Pat’s quote in The New York Times did not and does not reflect his beliefs about University of Montana athletics. He was asked specifically about a small handful of current and former players charged with crimes ranging from assault to rape to burglary. He was not asked about, nor was he referring to the entire football team or athletic program.

Pat believes our communities become stronger and that we make students safer by talking about and solving problems instead of shying away from them.

Pat believes the University and the athletic department has begun making genuine reforms in addressing problems of criminality among some athletes. He is quoted expressing his support on many occasions. As that difficult process continues it will cause short-term pain and difficulties; but eventually our institution, our players and our students will be the beneficiaries.

We hope that those attempting to block his appointment would direct the same amount of time and passion speaking out in support of a culture of safety on our campus and ending sexual assault. We know that Pat is serious, thoughtful and deliberate about his duty as a Regent. The Montana Legislature should confirm Pat’s appointment to the Board of Regents and allow him to continue serving Montana.

State Sen. Cliff Larsen, Missoula

Former state Rep. Diane Sands, Missoula

Missoula County Commissioner Jean Curtiss

Missoula City Council Member Cynthia Wolken

Former Missoula City Council Member Stacy Rye

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