Lack of transparency disturbing
As the story of Peter Gray — the former Iowa Athletics Department employee accused of sexual misconduct — begins to garner national attention, University of Iowa officials remain characteristically, conspicuously quiet.
Gray resigned from his position as an associate director of athletics student services on Nov. 5. A subsequent report acquired by the Iowa City Press-Citizen revealed that a University of Iowa investigation had uncovered numerous violations of university’s Policy of Sexual Harassment by Gray dating back nearly 20 years.
Gray, who worked in the Athletics Department from 1993 to 1995 and later from 2002 until early November, is accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with student-athletes, behaving unprofessionally in the workplace, and exchanging Iowa football tickets for sexual favors with non-university personnel.
Obviously some information is legally privileged and university officials cannot discuss certain details at this time. But news of the investigation has raised as many questions about Gray’s resignation as it has answered, and many of these questions need to be answered immediately.
In the wake of the child-sex sbusefiasco at Penn State, UI President Sally Mason trumpeted the virtues of transparency and the dangers of athletics departments that become insulated from their universities. But this week, she’s been pulling double duty seemingly doing the exact opposite, being exceptionally vague in her statements.
“Regarding the recent media reports about Peter Gray, it is a confidential personnel matter, and the university will not make any additional comment,” Mason said in a statement released on Tuesday. She added that the university would continue to look into the matter and then “take all necessary actions that are warranted.”
In an interview with The Daily Iowan, Mason said “there are more questions to be asked” and the university’s investigation will finish at “the latest tomorrow.”
But Mason believes the university is doing a “good” job vetting potential candidates for positions at the university. This is despite Gray being rehired in 2002 to work in student services given his alleged history of violating the university’s sexual-harassment policies. Mason also said the rehiring will be examined through the fact-finding process.
“I think it’s really important to look at the hiring practices to make sure we follow our policies, state policies, and also to make sure that we do everything possible to find out as much as we can about candidates that are applying for jobs here at the university,” Mason said.
But still, important questions remain. Why was Gray allowed to resign quietly despite internal knowledge of his alleged indiscretions? If not for a leak in the Athletics Department, would the public ever have learned about this investigation?
And, perhaps most troubling of all, why won’t any administration officials openly talk about this?
When asked about the chain of communication for sexual-harassment complaints on a scale such as these, Mason said, “Our sexual-misconduct-response coordinator Monique DiCarlo, she should be informed any time there is sexual misconduct of any sort, whether it’s sexual harassment, whether it’s sexual assault.”
After contacting DiCarlo, The Daily Iowan was forwarded to UI spokesman Tom Moore. The DI Editorial Board finds this lack of transparency particularly disturbing, given that the depth and breadth of this scandal remains to be seen.
From Mason and the rest of the university administration, the public deserves real transparency and candor surrounding this issue. Scandals brought to light cannot be returned to the darkness, and withholding the details will only serve to further embarrass the university and increase the potential for collateral damage.
And from Kirk Ferentz, the highest profile member of the Athletics Department, the public deserves more than petulance. During a press conference on Tuesday, Ferentz seemed to believe that discussing his team’s connection to Peter Gray was beneath him, opting to curse at a reporter and testily refuse to comment.
At this point, no question is below any UI official.
If the university hopes to weather this storm with minimal harm done, its leaders would be wise to release the details of its handling of the Gray affair immediately. The details will come to light one way or another — they always do — so the UI should be proactive in its handling of a burgeoning scandal.
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