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Montana Supreme Court To Hear Krakauer v Montana University System Arguments At MSU On Wednesday

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The Montana Supreme Court continues its road trip across the state on Wednesday, as the high court will hear oral arguments in the case brought by author Jon Krakauer to force the University of Montana to disclose the records of a student charged with sexual assault.

Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education, Kevin McRae said the question before the court is one of the right to privacy versus the public’s right to know.

“State and federal law prohibit educational institutions from releasing student records without the student’s permission,” McRae said. “In this case neither the University of Montana nor the Montana University System have received permission from the student to release those records.”

McRae said the risk of releasing the records could have very expensive, far reaching implications to UM and the entire university system.

“Federal law says to violate a student’s privacy, that among the penalties are the loss of federal funds,” he said. “The U.S. Department of Education, the enforcement agency, under the law, has the right to remove federal funds, including Pell grants that students in financial need require to enroll in college.”

McRae said the book’s author (Jon Krakauer, author of ‘Missoula; Rape and the Justice System in a College Town’) has said this federal rule is not significant, or it is simply a bluff. He said he has done some research and mentions there are few if any cases where the Department of Education has removed any federal funds.Nevertheless, the law is clear that loss of federal funds could occur for the University of Montana.”

McRae said the Montana University System would comply with the Montana Supreme Court’s decision, should it order the release of the confidential records.

The oral arguments will be live-streamed starting at 9:30 a.m. from the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman. Access the broadcast by following this link.

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