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Dear Bobcat parent and family members,

As the Dean of Students, my primary responsibility is creating a culture that furthers the health, safety and well-being of all MSU students. With this in mind, I will focus on safety-related information in this pre-holiday email.  

First, I'd like to share our policies and procedures for reporting crimes and other emergencies on campus and our safety programs designed to prevent injuries or other dangerous incidents. MSU compiles this information for our Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. The report includes institutional policies for campus security, alcohol and drug use, crime prevention, sexual assault and other matters. I encourage you to review the report and respond to me if you have questions, concerns or feedback.

Some of you may be aware that a Timely Warning was sent to students, faculty and staff on Nov. 3 after the university received a number of reports of sexual violence during the Halloween weekend. You can read that MSU Timely Warning and learn about the federal law called the Clery Act that requires MSU to send Timely Warnings and emergency notifications.  

Another important safety topic in Montana is winter recreation. And after the snowstorm that hit the Bozeman area last week, I think it's a good time to write about snow and backcountry safety.

I know that students are eager to get out on their skis and snowboards, and many are already looking for enough snow to make a few backcountry turns. However, early-season skiing has unique hazards, such as a thin, unstable snowpack and hidden obstacles like rocks. And even early in the season, avalanches are a concern. Unfortunately, every year we experience several avalanche injuries, and it is tragic when fatalities occur.

If your student is a skier or snowboarder who ventures into the backcountry, please remind them about learning and honing their snow safety skills by employing the fundamentals of "know before you go":

  • Take a class (through MSU or the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center)
  • Practice with beacons
  • Know your gear
  • Check daily avalanche reports 

MSU provides programs and services to help students enhance their preparedness and reduce the chance of injuries. Our Outdoor Recreation Program offers avalanche rescue clinics where students can learn how to use an avalanche beacon and probe or refresh their skills. A schedule for these clinics will be available next semester. 

Outdoor Recreation also rents an avalanche safety package that includes an avalanche beacon, probe, and shovel. Students can practice using this safety equipment at the free on-campus beacon park during January and February.

MSU is again partnering with Crosscut Mountain Sports Center to share a yurt at Crosscut. Last year, the new partnership was a huge success. On the weekends, MSU will use the yurt for avalanche and wilderness medicine clinics. During the week, Crosscut will use the yurt as a warming place for kids taking Nordic skiing lessons. 

MSU held our annual Snow and Avalanche Workshop on Oct. 26. Workshop presentations were recorded and can be viewed on YouTube. If your skier or snowboarder missed the Oct. 26 event, please encourage them to watch the recording. We'd encourage parents and family members who spend time in the backcountry in the winter to watch too.

Students, parents and family members can stay informed on snowpack conditions in the region and snow safety alerts by subscribing to the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center daily updates. They are also offering free one-hour avalanche awareness talks this season!  

We're all looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday next week. There will likely be many students traveling by car in the next few weeks, so please share these winter driving safety tips with your student:

  • Check the engine oil and tire pressure on all four tires.
  • Make sure wiper blades are not brittle or worn and are in good working order.
  • Check the Montana Department of Transportation travel information website.
  • Carry a car emergency kit with first-aid supplies, jumper cables, gloves, a shovel, a tow strap and a sleeping bag in the car.
  • Communicate travel plans with friends and family members ahead of time. 

Sticking with the theme of student safety, the Cat-Griz football game, aka the Brawl of the Wild, is this weekend in Bozeman. This is an intense and storied cross-state rivalry, and passions always run high on both sides. Whether your student attends the game in person or watches it with friends on TV, I hope they have a great time while making responsible choices throughout the weekend. 

In addition to our MSU Code of Conduct, students need to be mindful of our Bobcat Code of a Champion. These principles embody our commitment to providing athletic events that are safe, welcoming and enjoyable to all fans:

  • We all represent Bobcats. Do so with class and displays of sportsmanship.
  • Respect all staff, fans, officials, student-athletes, and opposing teams.
  • Cheer long and LOUD - in a respectful manner that avoids obscene or abusive language.
  • Refrain from behaviors that are unruly or disruptive.
  • Demonstrate responsible behavior when consuming alcoholic beverages.
  • Respect all facility regulations and event staff personnel. 

Here's to safe travels and a restful and enjoyable holiday break for you and your family.

Go 'Cats Go,

Matthew R. Caires
Dean of Students

P.S. There may be a Cat-Griz Watch Party in your area. We encourage all Bobcat parents and their families to join the fun of watching the game with alums, fans and friends at one of this year's 90-plus locations. Find a Cat-Griz watch party near you.