Q&A with President Sally Mason

BY DI STAFF | SEPTEMBER 23, 2010 7:20 AM

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The Daily Iowan sat down with University of Iowa President Sally Mason on Wednesday to discuss the provost search, 21-ordinance, and football season.

DI: The interim provost was announced last week, Dean Butler. What was the process you went through in selecting him?

President Sally Mason: I asked a lot of people on campus to give me their input and their ideas about who might be an appropriate interim provost, and as I thought about who on campus had the right kind of experience who was really ready for this kind of an opportunity, Dean Butler became a real obvious choice to me. I think he's going to be tremendous. I think he's going to be a real asset to, obviously, to the senior administration he has been on for now as long as he's been here, which is more than 20 years. So, he's got a lot of knowledge about the university, and he cares deeply about this university and what happen to the University of Iowa, as do I. I think together we'll have the opportunity to just keep things running smoothly.

DI: What specific qualifications were you looking for and which did he possess?

Mason: Obviously, administrative experience, and in Dean Butler's case a lot of knowledge about the institution, about its people, the way it operates, about what its values, about how we think about things and operate, and so for me, he was a really wonderful, wonderful choice. I was glad he was willing.

DI: How are the efforts going on for the provost search?

Mason: Again, this is a process, and I seek input from our shared governance groups. So I've asked, for example, Staff Council and Faculty Senate and student government to be thinking about names of individuals that could serve on a search committee, and I'm getting input now from those groups about what membership on such a committee would look like. And probably in another couple of weeks, we'll invite individuals to chair the committee and get the search process underway.

DI: Is there, as of right now, a specific anticipated timeline in which you plan to have a provost?

Mason: I would like to have a permanent provost in place by the beginning of the fall semester of next year. So that gives us roughly this academic year to complete the search. We'll have the search committee in place and working before the end of this semester. My hope is that during the spring semester, it will be in the process of identifying strong candidates so we can bring candidates to campus for interview sometime during the spring.

DI: What is your response to the UISG's recent public announcement of their stance on the 21-ordinance?

Mason: I'm always proud of our students and the things that they do. For me, I'm pleased to support students in whatever efforts they are undertaking. This is now an issue that's in the hands of voters. So, I'm going to comment on my support for the 21-only ordinance but that's all. And I've been very consistent, obviously, in my support of the 21-ordinance. There's really three reasons in my mind that I've felt strongly about the 21-ordinance when it was put into place. First and foremost was safety. And all the evidence so far suggests that this has been a safer community since the ordinance has been in effect.

The health of our students, the health and well-being. Our students unfortunately, especially the underage students, the 19- and 20-year-olds, were engaging in risky drinking behavior at far greater rates than at other college campuses and other college towns. It just isn't good for our students.
I think this really resonates with students in particular because I certainly hear it from many of our upperclassmen, of the reputation of the university. When you leave here, you want a degree that means something to the people who will employ you. It means something to come from an institution where you've got as many top-ranked programs as we do. But it means less if you come from an institution that's been labeled as a party school, where less emphasis was placed on academics than our partying. I know it isn't true for many of our students, particularly for our upperclassmen who are now out looking for jobs and getting prepared for the job market. They really understand that the reputation of this institution, and the degree that they are going to leave with means a lot more when it comes from a top-rated academic institution rather than from an institution that might have been labeled as a party school. So those are my three reasons, and right now I think it's the hands of the voters, and we'll see what happens in November.

DI: Do you think that [the UISG's stance] will have any effect on the voters?

Mason: Well, I hope that one of the things that UISG is adamant about and that I support wholeheartedly is encouraging young people to engage in the democratic process; that means vote. If you're passionate about something, the only way that you're going to have a voice in something is to vote.

I absolutely agree with the idea that UISG should do this every year. Not just because there is an issue out there now that really resonates with our students, but getting the vote out and helping young people understand how important it is to participate in the democratic process is exactly the right way for student government to be involved and exactly the right way for our student leaders to show leadership.

DI: What is your reaction to the announcement that there has been an increase in the number of patients at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics?

Mason: It's interesting as you go through these economic bubbles, ups and downs, and we're certainly, we hope, coming out slowly from this great recession that we've been in. As people become more confident and comfortable with the recession we see changes in behaviors, and I think people who have put off health care, who have put off health issues that probably needed to be dealt with, they are doing it now. So I think we are seeing this uptick of activity at our hospitals … we're not the only hospital that's seeing this. I think it's probably true for many hospitals these days and certainly many medical practices, where you're seeing people now returning to the doctor's office to take care of those issues that they probably should have been paying more attention to but were worried, obviously, about what the economy was doing to their finances. It's unfortunate when you have to make decisions about your health based obviously on what the economy is doing, but that is exactly the way we think.

DI: The fall in general is obviously football season. What is your favorite part of the season, and what do you like to eat during football season?

Mason: [laughs] I love the excitement that comes with the football games, I really do. I love the energy that comes to town when everyone flocks into Iowa City to see the Hawkeyes play. It's exciting, and it really does just give you a sense of energy and excitement that's unparalleled. I can't think of anything that's more fun than that, and it's a lot of fun for me to be able to entertain our alumni and our friends and I do that every football Saturday. For me, it's a real routine. In the morning, I get up, if it's a morning or afternoon game, we get up, we have a group of our alumni whom we entertain at usually a brunch or lunch or if it's a later game, then it's maybe an afternoon dinner. Then we go to the game, and then I entertain more people at the game.

My favorite food at the game is probably — I'm like everyone else, I like a good bratwurst or barbecue sandwich. I call it football food. And I enjoy it just as much as everybody else does. A good hot dog, a good brat, some barbecue from Jimmy Jacks; all that is just fine with me on football day.

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