UI settles sexual misconduct case

BY SAM LANE | FEBRUARY 02, 2012 7:20 AM

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The University of Iowa has reached a settlement in the case of a former student who said then-political-science Professor Arthur Miller traded grades for sexual favors.

The settlement, worth $130,000, ends one of the handful of incidents of alleged sexual misconduct on campus that the university has wrestled with over the last five years. In that time, the university has dealt with sexual-misconduct allegations against at least two other faculty members, a few athletes, and a handful of other students.

Beth Barnhill, the executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said parents of prospective UI students should be concerned about sexual misconduct on campus and the university's response to such incidents.

"I think in [the Miller] case, it sounds as though they allowed [the misconduct] to continue by not acting immediately," she said, noting that she didn't know whether the incidents had given the school a reputation as one that handles sexual misconduct poorly.

In May 2008, Miller was charged with four counts of bribery. According to police reports, Miller fondled or attempted to fondle female students' breasts when they came to his office to discuss their grades.

That August, Miller, then 66, committed suicide in a local park and, following his death, the criminal investigation and the UI's internal probe were closed.

The Miller settlement comes more than a year after the UI settled a lawsuit — also for $130,000 — with a woman who said former UI music Professor Mark Weiger touched her inappropriately in 2008. Like Miller, Weiger committed suicide after the lawsuit was filed.

Additionally, in 2007, two Hawkeye football players allegedly sexually assaulted a female student-athlete in a Hillcrest dorm room. Two university administrators were fired for apparently mishandling that case and the university revamped its policies on responding sexual-misconduct reports.

Since 2007, officials have reported incidents of alleged sexual assault on the Pentacrest, in a residence hall, and one involving a former Hawkeye running back.

That's all in addition to reports that a researcher assaulted an assistant in his lab and that another faculty member was downloading child porn on his work computer.

Despite Barnhill's criticism of the UI, Sara Riley, a Cedar Rapids attorney who represented one of Miller's alleged victims, said she still feels confident about students' safety at the university.

"My daughter will be a freshman there next year," Riley said. "If I thought it was a place not safe for students, she wouldn't go there. Few professors act the way [Miller] acted. There will be bad professors. There are people who abuse other people. The university has learned … you can't ignore the protection of others."

Riley said she thinks her client, now living in Boston, is satisfied with the settlement.

"The university will admit no wrongdoing," Riley said. "You don't pay $130,000 if you think nothing wrong happened — at least not in Iowa."

UI spokesman Tom Moore declined to comment on the case or the settlement, except to say it "was acceptable for both sides."

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