Embattled UM computer science faculty member resigns, questions Title IX investigation

By: - October 22, 2021 4:12 pm

The grizzly bear statue in front of Main Hall on the University of Montana campus. (Provided by the University of Montana.)

A University of Montana associate professor under investigation for a blog that disparaged women, LGBTQ+ people and Muslims announced his resignation Friday in a statement released on Twitter via his lawyer.

“Recently, the University of Montana announced that it would investigate me after a public backlash over statements I made on my personal blog concerning my religious beliefs, in spite of a previous statement from the university informing me that my blog was protected under the First Amendment,” wrote Rob Smith in the letter. “It is apparent to me that this investigation is not being handled with the objective due process I was assured it would. Rather than lend legitimacy to an investigation that I believe is being conducted dishonestly and, in the interest of sparing my wife and children the need to endure another ‘investigation’ where merit is trumped by ideology, I am choosing to resign, effective today.”

In a brief phone call, UM spokesperson Dave Kuntz confirmed Smith resigned but said UM did not ask for his resignation. Kuntz said the investigation had not concluded as of Friday, and it was not immediately clear if it still would be completed following the faculty member’s resignation.

Following a report last week by the Montana Kaimin that Smith posted derogatory comments on his blog, UM President Seth Bodnar announced he had directed campus officials to launch an investigation into the matter. The Kaimin also reported Smith had started deleting posts after the student newspaper started asking questions about his blog.

Rob Smith resigned as a University of Montana Computer Science faculty member. (Provided by UM.)

“Your physical attractiveness is your most valuable asset in finding a husband,” the Kaimin quoted Smith as writing to women. “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 had been at UM since 2014. In a petition and a campus demonstration, students called for the computer science associate professor to be fired.

Department Chair Jesse Johnson earlier confirmed he reported Smith’s blog up the chain after seeing “very objectionable material” and also said the opinions in it were “far, far outside of the mainstream in our department.”

In his letter, Smith expressed support for the campus.

“As I leave behind a record of seven and a half years of service, I’m grateful for colleagues and students who have inspired me and made this time fulfilling, in spite of the challenges,” he wrote. “I truly wish the best for the entire campus community.”

The letter was posted on social media by lawyer Matthew Monforton. Monforton’s Twitter profile describes him as “Protecting people of faith, gun owners, and the unborn by educating Montana Dems about the Bill of Rights — one lawsuit at a time. Ex-GOP since January 6, 2021.”

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Keila Szpaller
Keila Szpaller

Keila Szpaller is deputy editor of the Daily Montanan and covers education. In Montana since 1998, she loves hiking in Glacier National Park, wandering the grounds of the Archie Bray and sitting on her front porch with friends. Before joining States Newsroom Montana, she served as city editor of the Missoulian, the largest news outlet in western Montana. She worked there from 2006 to 2020. As a Missoulian reporter, she was named a co-fellow by the Education Writers Association to report on a series about economic mobility; grantee of the Society of Environmental Journalists for a project on conservation from the U.S. to Africa; and Kiplinger Fellow in Digital Media and Public Affairs Journalism. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune and Missoula Independent, and she earned her master’s in journalism from the University of Montana. She lives in Missoula with her husband, Brock, who is also her favorite chef, and her pup, Henry, who is her favorite adventure companion. She believes she deserves to wear the T-shirt with this saying: “World’s most mediocre runner.”

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