MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A University of Montana computer science professor has been placed on paid leave while the university investigates now-deleted blog posts that maligned women, Muslims and people who are LGBTQ, the university said Tuesday.
The Montana Kaimin student newspaper was first to report the blog posts by tenured associate professor Rob Smith in which he said women begin to “lose value" after age 16, that faithful Muslims are not peaceful and that child sex trafficking and pedophilia are driven by the ”sins" of accepting queer and transgender people.
His blog is subtitled: “Explaining the prophecies and the scriptures to all who desire to hear them.”
In an email to the Missoulian on Tuesday, Smith said he was disheartened by the conclusions people are reaching about his position as a professor in the light of his blog posts.
“Any thoughts expressed on my personal blog do not, and have not, been made in my capacity as a faculty member, but have been made as a private citizen, and any such thoughts do not represent the University of Montana,” Smith wrote in the email.
UM President Seth Bodnar announced an investigation on Monday, calling Smith's views “homophobic and misogynistic.”
“Building a culture of respect, empowerment and equity is foundational to our mission at UM as well as personally important to me,” Bodnar said.
After the Kaimin’s story was published Monday, students began social media efforts calling for Smith to be fired. Smith initiated the conversation about being placed on leave on Monday night pending the results of the investigation, under the university’s collective bargaining agreement with the faculty, UM spokesperson Dave Kuntz told the Missoulian.
“That status could change at the conclusion of the university’s investigation,” he said.
Smith will not be on campus during his leave and another instructor will be teaching his courses, Kuntz said Tuesday.
Smith started his blog “Upward Thought” in 2013. Many of the posts have been deleted, but the Kaimin had downloaded some of them and posted them with its story.
In January 2019, Smith wrote that a man’s value “keeps increasing over time,” in terms of his earnings and wisdom, but “the longer a woman waits to marry, the less currency she has to attract a valuable man.”
In November 2020, Smith wrote that “a young woman should know everything she needs to know to be a good wife and mother and be seeking for that at the earliest possible age.”
The post also calls it a “false idea” that “girls should experience the same education as boys,” suggesting it can delay a woman from starting a family until she is in her 30s when her “ability to qualify for a good husband and learn what it takes to be a good wife and mother is exceedingly reduced.”
In a July 2020 post, Smith wrote: “You can’t be surprised at sex trafficking when you believe that a 6 year old can choose whether they are a boy or a girl or a 14 year old girl can decide to have an abortion.”
By Sept. 29, Smith had deleted his previous posts and wrote that his blog was a way for him “to be able to think out loud” and “hear the feedback of others.”
“We live in a world of increasingly uneven tolerance for ideas that differ from what we already believe,” he wrote in his blog.
Smith did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment left Tuesday at the software company Prime Labs Inc., where Smith is CEO.
Last week, the dean and associate dean of the university's law school stepped down after students complained the administrators failed to take seriously reports of sexual harassment and assault.