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UI officials defend Mason’s comments on Gray documents

BY ERIC CLARK | NOVEMBER 30, 2012 6:30 AM

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Several University of Iowa officials defended the comments UI President Sally Mason made to the Iowa City Press-Citizen on Tuesday concerning the leak of documents regarding alleged sexual misconduct by Peter Gray.

Mason told the Press-Citizen on Tuesday if the documents had not been released, she wouldn’t have made the information regarding the investigation public. She said that would have been part of the personnel record.

If a prospective employer were to ask Mason about Gray, she said she would not discuss the investigation.

“I would simply say, ‘I don’t have anything that I can share with you,’ ” Mason told the Press Citizen.

Gray, a former associate director of UI athletics student services, resigned Nov. 5 amid allegations that he had inappropriate sexual contact with student-athletes and exhibited sexual and non-professional behavior in the workplace, The Daily Iowan has previously reported.

UI Presidential Committee on Athletics head N. William Hines backed Mason’s comments, citing traditional procedures for personnel matters among higher-education institutions.

“Ordinary discipline takes place in a very private environment,” he said. “The law allows us to release that information, but it does not compel us to.”

Citing his 28 years as the UI College of Law dean, Hines said internal punishment for misconduct for both student and faculty misconduct has been fairly private.

“That’s always been the way we’ve preferred to do things,” he said. “Even with student discipline, we’d never reveal their identity.”

UI psychology Professor and Athletics Committee member Michael O’Hara endorsed the use of confidentiality among investigations similar to Gray’s.

“In some cases, these complaints are not necessarily always founded,” he said. “There’s not always a clear-cut decision.”

O’Hara did express concern about the manner in which recent hiring policy changes were announced, saying he wasn’t sure if the changes would have been made if not for the media’s coverage of the case.

The UI plans to review all hiring processes, specifically beginning with athletics.

In a prior interview with The Daily Iowan, Regent Robert Downer also expressed concerns regarding hiring policy.

“My concern is from the regent-policy standpoint,” Downer said. “In my view, this is something the Board of Regents has to look into for all the institutions for which we have responsibility.”

Downer was not available for comment on Thursday evening.

While the enhanced review and potential policy changes may be better for the UI in general, Hines believed the leak of the document and extensive media coverage have made the situation regarding Gray much worse than it really is.

“There’s no doubt about that,” Hines said. “It’s hard to see if any good has come of it.”

Hines was quick to note the documents that were released earlier this month did not necessarily demonstrate that the investigation was complete.

“Reading the document, that’s how it read,” he said. “It was incomplete, and it went to the public.”

O’Hara said situations regarding internal investigations and punishment are all very complicated and different in nature.

“There are some situations where the public demands the information,” he said. “The final decision is the president’s.”

Hines said by keeping investigation reports and punishments confidential, the UI aims to rehabilitate the student or staff member, and help get them back on track.

“As a management strategy, it makes sense,” he said. “Tradition has always been to err on the side of privacy.”


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