Hands clasped before him, head bowed, this penitent figure gracing the cover of Missoula’s “Independent” in the last week of May is embattled UM president, Royce Engstrom.
When I saw the cover, I actually skipped Ochenski and went straight for the Indy’s take on what I assumed would be a substantive look at the suddenly vilified UM Honcho.
I should have looked at the cover more closely, because that week’s feature wasn’t just about Engstrom. Instead, it was a collage of jobs “you probably don’t want”, of which Engstrom’s was one of five. Here is how Engstrom’s section opens:
The past two years have been anything but kind to the University of Montana’s administration. If it isn’t homeowners renewing concerns about moving the College of Technology to the UM golf course, it’s environmentalists highlighting problems with the university’s biomass boiler proposal…
Then, of course, there’s the rape investigation thing. So that sucks.
I think that’s a very charitable depiction of three separate issues that seem to share the common theme of a public institution demonstrating its arrogant disregard for the public it serves.
The first issue is developing the golf course, which has been in the crosshairs for years. Opposition was stirred against moves to develop the golf course back in 2007. According to the article, it wasn’t the first time Missoulians had to register their strong opposition to developing prime real estate:
It’s not the first time the women have gone the distance to halt development on the nine-hole course. In 2005, golfers were the chief push in a petition drive to stop UM’s real estate venture to build and sell houses and condominiums on the course.
Back then, UM administrators argued it was a creative solution to bring in additional revenue for the cash-strapped institution. But the outcry from thousands of petition signers was so loud regents held a special meeting in Missoula to discuss the matter.
The second issue mentioned in the Indy’s woe-is-me profile of Engstrom’s handsomely paid position as UM president is the aborted biomass heating plant.
Remember, during that scandal, those who opposed this plan were depicted as eco-terrorists:
Several members of the public used the opportunity to voice their opposition of the project and some resented a university official’s recent comment that equated the appellants to low-level eco-terrorists.
“I have belonged to the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club, but I’m not an eco-terrorist,” said Harold Hoen, a Missoula resident who attended some of the university’s earlier public forums. “I wasn’t happy with the way those were conducted. And that was the (Environmental Assessment) process.”
But despite that, the opposition won, and the plan was scrapped (after UM blew a half million dollars for “research”).
A small victory for all those eco-terrorists who didn’t want a glorified 16 million dollar incinerator spewing pollution in our inversion-prone valley.
The third issue—rape—is eloquently described as “sucking”, while regurgitating the basic facts everyone already knows. Speaks for itself, really.