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Montana State University-Northern agreed to pay a professor $35,000 to settle a racial discrimination complaint filed against the school.

The settlement agreement, finalized in July, means that the university pays up but admits no guilt in the case handled by the Montana Human Rights Bureau.

The Bureau received the complaint from adjunct professor Yvonne Tiger in December. The specific allegations of the complaint were never released. Tiger is Native American.

She will no longer work as a health care transformation specialist as MSU-Northern but will remain on staff as a part-time adjunct professor, said Montana University System spokesman Kevin McRae.

Tiger's attorney, Daniel Flaherty, gets $15,000 as part of the settlement.

The Human Rights Bureau has dropped the case as part of the settlement.

“Because the parties have settled and withdrawn the claim, this is no longer an active case that we’re investigating,” said bureau attorney Tim Little.

The settlement also references a corresponding federal complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The settlement said that Tiger agrees to withdraw that claim as well.

A spokesperson for the EEOC said on Tuesday that they couldn't confirm the existence of any pending complaints.

Tiger's request became public on the heels of a tumultuous time for MSU-Northern. In April, administrators came under fire for how they handled a student who made racially charged comments about Native Americans.

The student was banned from campus but allowed to continue playing football at university facilities. And while some Native students expressed concerns about the incident, Dean of Students Steven Wise allowed the student who made the comments to live at his private home.

Wise was in charge of the investigation into the student's comments. It took weeks before university Chancellor Greg Kegel addressed Wise's actions.

University Relations Director Jim Potter initially called the incident a "nothing thing." Kegel told Montana State University President Waded Cruzado that it was a "minor incident" before the first news story was published, according to emails recently obtained by Lee Newspapers.

Potter later apologized for that comment.

The incident built on longstanding anxieties felt by students at MSU-Northern, including the Sweetgrass Society, which is a Native American campus group. Students and professors spoke about how Native students' needs sometimes fell on deaf ears at the highest ranks of the school.

In the wake of that incident, the school said it would take steps to reach out to students and groups like the Sweetgrass Society. 

Administrators also called a meeting with professors who spoke out against the university's actions in news reports or filed a complaint.

English Professor John Snider said that after the incident, Kegel called a meeting that included him, Native American studies professor Paul McKenzie-Jones and Tiger.

Also present were Kegel, Wise and Carol Reifschneider, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Snider, who was among the first to speak out about the incident, said Tuesday that while administrators wanted to hear about their concerns, there are still improvements needed on the Havre campus.

"(Administrators) did not understand how serious the problems were up here," Snider said.

Potter, the university relations director, did not return The Gazette's inquiry Tuesday. Kegel has not returned calls since Aug. 1.


General Assignment Reporter

Reporter for The Billings Gazette.