As the sun rose over Mount Sentinel on Tuesday morning, it was immediately evident that someone had painted half of the iconic ‘M’ black during the night.

UM Communications Director Paula Short comments.

“This morning, University of Montana Facilities personnel discovered that the concrete ‘M’ on Mount Sentinel behind campus was painted sometime late last night or early this morning,” said Short. “As folks can look up at the ‘M’ and tell, half the ‘M’ is painted black and the other half is painted white.”

Short said the ‘M’ was indeed painted overnight.

“We did have our crews go up and take a look and that is indeed painted on,” she said. “There was some speculation that it might have been plastic or some sort of covering, but it is black paint ion the ‘M’ and we are going to begin the process of repairing that later today.”

Short said the incident is a criminal offense.

“Painting any university structure, including the ‘M’ is prohibited,” she said. “That is a prominent, if not Missoula’s most prominent landmark and we know that both of the mountains with letters people have attempted to modify or change those features. It is in fact prohibited by the university and our personnel will be up there starting later today. It will probably take a couple of days to complete the work, but we will be repairing the damage to the ‘M’ and we will be repainting it.”

Lieutenant Brad Giffin with the University of Montana Police department said such an action is considered to be criminal mischief by statute, and any damage under $1,500 is considered a misdemeanor, while any damage exceeding $1,500 would be considered a felony.

An investigation is underway as to who might have been responsible for the act of criminal mischief.