Q&A: Mason talks Insight Bowl, state funding, assaults

BY DI STAFF | DECEMBER 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Daily Iowan: Is the UI aware of the increasing number of assaults downtown?

UI President Sally Mason: I was reading in the paper yesterday some information about the assaults downtown, and it's concerning. It's particularly concerning to me that there's a pattern here that's recurring — that's lots of people coming from outside Iowa City on weekends, coming to the bars, and then obviously engaging in behavior that we would rather not see. We've got to look closely at that and see how we can better manage some of the situations that are developing down there that doesn't even necessarily involve our students but could endanger our students, and that's when I start to worry significantly is if we have people who come in and like to party with our students and get drunk and get violent. I don't want this to spill over into the student population and harm anyone.

DI: Have UI officials discussed the issues, and if not, do they plan to?

Mason: Not with me directly, but you need to ask Tom Rocklin, because my guess is they have been talking about it and how we try to manage this. I think the adjustments on the 21-only side may help some of this. I'll be asking some questions, more than likely of our public-safety folks and our vice president for Student Services just to get a sense from them on this and how we can help.

DI: Would the UI ever team up with local law enforcement to better address these outbreaks of violence downtown, or consider it?

Mason: We have, we are. Our police officers have been patrolling with Iowa City police for more than a year now, and I don't think this has changed. At this point, it is [effective], and I think one of the questions we will ask is what else can we be doing, should we be doing, are there things we are not doing now that we could that might have a positive effect on this overall.

DI: Police officials have also indicated many of the fights involve college-age students and students from out-of-town. Have you, or other UI officials discussed with surrounding institutions about this and how to combat it?

Mason: Not yet, not to my knowledge, and I think you might ask Tom Rocklin. We'll have to wait and see. I think we need to look at what we know about individuals coming to town and where they are from, whether or not they are coming from institutions like ours or if they are simply citizens who come to town on weekends because they know we have a lively and vibrant bar scene, even now.

DI: Many police officials said the assaults might attribute to the exemptions recently placed; do you have any comment on that?

Mason: I think that's one we can have some control over and see what the results are going to be. I think it's always worth looking at the variables in this equation that we have some control over, and then see if we make adjustments here or we make adjustments there that have an effect. I think its always worth looking at those things.

DI: Last year, the UI only saved $300,000 of the $1.8 million it received for playing in the Insight Bowl. Is the UI or Athletics Department looking to save more this year?

Mason: It's not necessarily about saving. Obviously, when we can save, we're glad. But it is about representing the university well at the Insight Bowl. I think we're planning to try to maintain the momentum that we had last year, bring the same number of people, and maybe even enhance that from fans from out west and fans who are willing to travel to Phoenix over the holidays and maybe enjoy a little warm weather with the rest of us. So it's not a goal necessarily to save money. We'd like to, obviously, keep our costs as low as possible, and I think we showed we could do that last year.

DI: Are officials anticipating any different travel plans?

Mason: I think we're all going in and out even more quickly this year then we did last year. It's really a two-day trip. At least for most of the fans. Now for the team, it's a weeklong preparation. They go there, and they prepare; the coach likes to prepare them just as they prepare for any other game. So they have a weeklong set of activities they all participate in preparation for every game, [Ferentz] puts them through that same routine. It doesn't matter what day [the game's] on because he starts them seven days before. They get into that routine so come game day they are ready to go.

DI: It was recently reported that Iowa legislators say that the Board of Regents and the regent universities will have to provide more proof that there is a need for more state appropriations. Is this an unfair call? How much proof have universities given state lawmakers?

Mason: No I think they are absolutely entitled to and should be asking these kinds of questions. We're happy to give them any and all information that they would like to have. I do hope that we can demonstrate that we are worthy of such. Despite the fact that we continue to grow and we are a healthy institution, at least on the academic side and the GEF side of things, we haven't seen that part of the institution grow at all for the last several years. It would be great if they would look at us carefully, appreciate the fact that we have the capability of continuing to grow and be a strong institution, and with state support, we can be even stronger, even better and continue to provide the high quality education students have come to appreciate and we are proud to deliver.
I think we have done a pretty good job with the state fiscal committee when it visited here last month, showing [the members] some of the details and the data on efficiencies that we have realized during the budget downturn, the way we are managing operations, cutting down on administrative costs to make sure that we continue to have the lowest administrative costs among our peers, and making strategic investments in what students need to get the best education we can possibly offer them.

So we'll continue to do that. We'll continue to answer any questions they might have about how we spend our money and how we spend our time. I hope that in the end, they we will see that in fact we are a bargain, especially for students in Iowa.

DI: We recently spoke about the HawkAlert system and you as well as other officials say there is constant work to improve it and make sure it is functioning at its best. Could you be more specific? What's the last change that was made to the system?

Mason: No I think Chuck Green could probably be more specific on that and the others who are directly responsible with HawkAlert. I'd encourage you to maybe ask some questions of individuals that are intimately related with this system. Do I know? No.

DI: Looking back at the recent Virginia Tech alert, which had a faster alert time, has the UI ever considered other programs?

Mason: Again, you are not asking the person who would make that decision. I will be very interested in having our folks look at Virginia Tech's system, because it seemed to work very quickly and very efficiently, and making sure that if that's a good choice for us, let's look at it seriously and let's make sure that we can see what the pros and cons are going forward of maybe changing our system to be more like their system.

DI: In the past, UISG students have advocated for an undergraduate position on the Board of Regents, have you heard and further commentary on the subject and what benefits would that offer?

Mason: There is a student, there is always a student on the Board of Regents. Gretta Johnson is currently the student on the Board of Regents. I believe when Gretta's term is up, I think it's the UI's turn to recommend students for serving on the Board of Regents, so at some point in the not too distant future we may have the opportunity to place a student on the board.

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