Q&A: Mason talks sportsmanship, UI Children’s Hospital, and surveillance cameras

BY DI STAFF | OCTOBER 18, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Daily Iowan: Construction on the new Children’s Hospital started last month; what progress has been made?

UI President Sally Mason: Well, not a lot. I’ve seen all the construction fences and signs, and sort of now, traffic’s getting a little tricky over there, so I know progress is being made. Signs have been up over there for a while, so we know that’s where the Children’s Hospital is going to go. I think the deconstruction of the parking ramp, that’s coming in January, so we’re trying to get people prepared.

The transportation had to get finished first. It opened last Thursday, so barely a week, that’s so patients can park across the street, so they can get into the hospital without walking outside. That was the whole idea, to get that idea completed so we can start deconstruction so we can new construction. It’s getting complicated. It’s coming along nicely.

DI: The Hawkeyes will play against Penn State this Saturday. Given your remarks at the start of the school year and earlier in the summer when the Big Ten and NCAA sanctions were imposed, what would you say to Hawkeye fans in preface to Saturday’s game?

Mason: Well, I want the Hawkeye fans to come and have a great time, and of course, I want the Hawkeyes to win. You know, I’ve had more fans from other institutions telling me that that’s not they way they do it at their institution. They don’t have to cheer Penn State, but they don’t have to boo them, either. And I would love if they would do that at every home game, where they wouldn’t boo the opposing team, they would just, and again doesn’t have to be cheers of support, they could be silent. It’s sort of like the advice that your mom and dad probably gave you, if you can’t say something good about someone, then don’t say anything at all. I think in this case that would be good advice.

There’s no reason to show support, but there’s reason to be critical, and I sure hope that our fans are cordial to the Penn State fans that come, and by and large, our fans tend to be pretty good hosts when it comes to hosting people from other institutions. I know there’s going to be people from Penn State here, and I just hope that our fans will extend to them the kind of welcome that they would want when they go to Penn State to see Iowa play.

DI: Would there be any repercussions if people wear T-shirts that have foul language?

Mason: You probably want to ask athletics that. We’re trying to promote a family-friendly atmosphere here. When people wear T-shirts, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s about Penn State, but if they wear T-shirts you know, would you want your 2-, 3-, 5-year-old to see something like that on a T-shirt and ask daddy or mommy the question, What does that mean? Do you really want to be the person to try to explain that to a youngster? I think if people would just use good common sense about what they wear and the comments that might be on those T-shirts that we wouldn’t have a problem. I’ve seen some t-shirts this year, certainly, I just shake my head and go there’s no common sense being exercised here whatsoever, and it doesn’t contribute to any family-friendly kind of atmosphere.

DI: And that’s what you strive to do?

Mason: Yeah. We have so many people say they like to bring their children, their grandchildren — it’s a family affair, they want to come and enjoy themselves. It’s hard to enjoy themselves when you’ve got drunks around you, if you’ve got people who are wearing T-shirts or sweatshirts that have derogatory or just profane language. That’s just bad and it certainly doesn’t promote any family-friendly atmosphere.

DI: UI officials recently implemented a new policy in August that stipulates all future surveillance cameras installed by the UI departments have to go through a request and approval process. How do you believe this new policy will best serve the UI community and student body?

Mason: Well, we have yet to see. Obviously, there are surveillance cameras in various places around campus and often strategically placed, to make certain areas that might have sensitive work going on or might be places where there’s not a lot of light, where we can see things. So if there’s a request for a surveillance camera, I think it makes good sense that those requests are examined. Do they make sense?  Well, obviously ask those questions and how effectively can we monitor by using those surveillance questions. So lots of questions, obviously, and it’s too soon to know exactly how all this might work.

DI: Do you think safety would increase if there were more cameras?

Mason: Well, that would be the hope. That would be a good reason for putting more surveillance cameras up is to make certain that our students, staff, and faculty are safe as well as the buildings, the property, and the work that is being done at the university can remain safe too.

DI: In a recent interview with Regent Robert Downer, he said he was disappointed with the progress that was made on the ground floor in the IMU. He said it hasn’t been talked about as much as other flood-recovery projects on campus. What is your response to community members like Downer who are skeptical about the IMU basement?

Mason: Well, I wouldn’t limit my remarks to the IMU. I think there’s a lot of frustration with all of our FEMA projects. That it takes time when you’re working with an agency and a bureaucracy as big as FEMA, it takes a lot of time because you’ve got to go step by step, and if you’re out of step with FEMA, it has a right to withhold funds or de-obligate funds. It can just take the money away, and then you’re really stuck. So we’ve got to be very careful, we’ve got to be very precise, and I do understand the frustration, because it can seem like things just aren’t moving fast enough.
But they’re moving, and they’re moving in the right direction, and we’re going to keep pushing forward. We’ll address those frustrations as they come up.

DI: Is it one of your higher priorities at the university?

Mason: Absolutely. It has been for four years. Keep in mind that when we talk to other cities and universities that have been affected by natural disasters like floods, like up in North Dakota. They told us it was a good decade before the projects that were a result of their flood were completed, and so as much as we want to push forward quickly, we should have patience. It’s going to take time, and it does. It was a lot of damage, and it was a lot to repair as well as a lot to replace.

DI: Regent President Craig Lang was on campus last week discussing the tuition freeze. What kind of discussion do you expect to arise from the Board of Regents’ meeting next week?

Mason: I’m hopeful that they will approve the idea of freezing in-state tuition for our undergraduates and obviously the plan to ask the Legislature for appropriation to replace tuition set aside. I suspect that will be discussed again as well, so stay tuned.

DI: Were you involved in any part of that?

Mason: I was probably the first person to suggest tuition freeze. When it became apparent that we were going to get appropriation last year, I suggested to the regents’ leadership at that point that we ought to consider freezing tuition for the in-state students, as not only a faith gesture to our students and their families, but also to the Legislature for appropriating dollars to help us, all three institutions.

DI: We are fewer than 20 days from the election, with a great amount of campaigning and political figures stopping by campus. What are your feelings as Iowa as a swing state, and are there any local elections you’re excited for?

Mason: I’ll go back to the importance of people voting, so with the big one coming up, a lot of people vote every four years because they think the only important election is the years when we elect a president. And I would argue that there are always important things happening every year, and as citizens we should familiarize ourselves with the candidates, with the issues, and then make informed decisions about how to vote and then get out there and do it. So register to vote, making sure students are registered to vote, making sure community members are registered to vote, and then getting the vote out is the most important thing. How people decide to support or not support, that’s personal, and I’m not about to tell anyone how to make those personal decisions.

DI: Are there any local races you’re excited about?

Mason: I don’t have much of a comment on anything locally other than the importance of voting.

DI: Any comments on the importance of Iowa as a swing state?

Mason: Pretty apparent that we’re important — if you just watch TV for 10 minutes, you’re going to see how important we are in the number of ads out there, and certainly by the volume of mail that I’m getting at home right now, clearly there’s a lot of attention being paid here in Iowa. I think more importantly, because the citizens of Iowa have always shown a great deal of enthusiasm and excitement about understanding what the issues are, understanding who the candidates are. It doesn’t surprise me not only are we an important swing state by candidates are paying a lot of attention to people in Iowa because people in Iowa generally tend to take these things pretty personally and get out and vote, so let’s makes sure we don’t disappoint anyone; let’s make sure we get out and vote.

DI: Are you pleased with the influx of people who are early voting?

Mason: I think you never know what that’s going to tell you. I think we’ll only know that after the election, but I think the fact that people are voting, whether it’s early or whether it’s Election Day, getting out the vote is the most important thing. So if it’s a way in which more people will participate in the process, I’m all for it. I myself will most likely vote early, because Election Day is going to be a very busy day for me, and it’s going to be hard for me to get to the polls otherwise.

DI: A federal trial started Monday in Davenport with Teresa Wagner alleging that the UI College of Law School denied her a faculty position in 2006 because of her conservative political views. How do you think a decision ruling in Wagner’s favor could reflect on the college of law and the university as a whole?

Mason: I have nothing to say about that until the trial’s over.

DI: You previously defended the UI’s hiring process saying that the university adheres to the federal law and the administrators don’t ask about political affiliations. Has the university’s hiring process changed at all recently?

Mason: No. Not that I know of.

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