MSU Wild

Students walk between classes through a steady snow in front of Montana Hall in this 2019 Chronicle file photo.

Montana State University police and administrators acted appropriately when they swiftly suspended an officer and launched an investigation into allegations the officer made potentially discriminatory statements to a woman during a traffic stop last week.

The officer was recorded making a statement to a woman who believed the statement was prompted by her race. During the incident the officer was recorded saying, “this isn’t where you came from.”

We won’t pass judgment while this incident is investigated, but references to race or ethnicity during interactions with the public should not be tolerated by any law enforcement agency in any community. That’s particularly important for the MSU and Bozeman police forces.

We live in times of unprecedented cultural, political and socioeconomic polarity. Our state is no exception. Intolerance for immigrants or anyone who does not fit what are perceived to be local cultural or racial norms has risen sharply in recent years – largely in response to disagreements over U.S. immigration policy.

Bozeman, with Montana State University’s diverse student and faculty population, is arguably the epicenter of this friction in this state, especially with its large representation of those from Islamic cultures. As such, it’s in the best interests of the university and the community to actively promote messages of tolerance for any and all who come here to study or to live.

MSU has benefitted greatly from its appeal to diverse cultures. The university’s status as a top-tier and relatively affordable research institution has attracted students from all over the nation and the world. And that has contributed to MSU’s enrollment growth despite struggles by other universities around the country to maintain student numbers.

But all communities, not just college towns, should welcome racial and cultural diversity. The United States is a nation of immigrants. And the benefits from that are apparent. A population made up of diverse racial and ethnic elements is vibrant with varied ideas and far more likely to advance culturally and economically. The exceptional nature of our nation’s history is a testament to that.

All our institutions, especially law enforcement, should reflect that welcoming tolerance for diversity. And MSU’s actions in this incident reflect a commitment to that principle.


Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

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