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Legislators question UI’s sexual-misconduct policies

BY KEVIN HOFFMAN | NOVEMBER 05, 2009 7:20 AM

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Some legislators say they have lingering questions about the sexual-misconduct policies at Iowa’s three state universities, but budget constraints will keep them from meeting again to discuss them.

Iowa legislators in the Government Oversight Committee met with UI, Iowa State University, and University of Northern Iowa officials last week for updates on how school administrators are improving their policies. The state Board of Regents mandated the change in December 2008 in response to the UI’s handling of an alleged October 2007 rape of a student-athlete. Two former Hawkeye football players have been charged, and they are awaiting trial.

Hope for another meeting is quashed now, given Gov. Chet Culver’s recent 10 percent across-the-board cuts, said Rep. Clel Baudler, R-Greenfield.

“I don’t think you’ll see anything coming out of the Government Oversight [Committee] to help this situation in any shape or form,” he said.

Officials’ questions may remain unanswered for now, and he said a lack of verdict and action has contributed to the problem.

“This alleged sexual assault happened two years ago, and we’re getting around to it finally,” Baudler said. “We can’t even get these people to court, so it’s still an alleged sexual assault.”

He also noted a discrepancy among alleged sexual-assault cases — only high-profile cases receive attention, he said.

Fellow committee member Rep. Wesley Whitead, D-Sioux City, agreed with Baudler. Though he wasn’t at last week’s hearing, he said, he’s concerned about how university officials have handled some of the cases.

The UI’s new policy identifies four types of prohibited behavior under the umbrella of sexual misconduct: sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, and sexual intimidation.

The UI also created a new position that Monique DiCarlo filled— the coordinator for sexual-misconduct response. She is responsible for handling reports of sexual misconduct and ensuring a prompt response.

The university uses programs in the residence halls, lectures, films, and workshops as tools to raise awareness of sexual misconduct among students.

“I think our policy has improved, and I think in addition to having a good policy, we need to have a good coordinated response,” DiCarlo said.

She also helps lead the UI Antiviolence Coalition, which consists of 30 members and meets once a month. She noted there’s a need to focus on training students, staff, and faculty — not simply refining policies.

In addition, all first-year incoming students are required to take an online sexual-assault prevention program called nformd.net, which addresses sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.

UI junior Thomas Stewart said he thinks officials’ efforts to keep campus safe are mostly successful.

“I’d say they’re doing all they could that’s reasonably expected of them,” he said.


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