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Mason's comments shameful

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | DECEMBER 03, 2012 6:30 AM

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University of Iowa President Sally Mason told the Press-Citizen last week that had the information not been leaked to the media, she would not have informed the public about the circumstances surrounding the November resignation of former Athletics Department official Peter Gray.

Gray, who most recently served as associate director of athletics student services, resigned in early November. According to the leaked University of Iowa investigation, he had repeatedly violated the university’s policy on Sexual Harassment. The report found that Gray had a long personal history of inappropriate sexual contact with student-athletes.

When asked what she would tell prospective future employers about Gray, Mason said, “I would simply say, ‘I don’t have anything that I can share with you.’ ”

This response is characteristic of Mason and other university officials, who maintain that the Gray affair is a private personnel matter and that they are not required by law to release any information on the subject.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board finds Mason’s most recent comments particularly disturbing, further exemplifying the opacity of an administration that seems to prioritize its own reputation over the welfare of its students.

It is true that the university has no legal obligation to release the details of its investigation of Gray, but make no mistake: There is nothing in Iowa law that would have prevented the university from releasing the results of its investigation. Ultimately, decisions about what to disclose and what to keep hidden about the inner workings of the university are made by the administration.

University administrators have employed faulty legal and procedural excuses for their silence to distract from the fact that in allowing Gray to resign quietly for “personal reasons,” they shirked their moral responsibility to tell the public what had been happening on their watch for more 10 years.

The university’s response to Gray’s resignation is made all the more unpalatable by Mason’s now-disingenuous calls for increased transparency in athletics departments in the wake of the Penn State sex-abuse scandal this past summer.

Mason’s fondness for transparency seems to extend only to situations in which openness is good for the reputation of the UI administration. Rather than a true commitment to transparency, the aftermath of Gray’s resignation has shown Mason’s inclination to obfuscate and condescend.

She has, at every turn, cloaked her refusal to speak about Gray in a misleading interpretation of Iowa disclosure laws. If she truly believed that releasing the details of the Gray investigation would have served the public’s best interest, she could have done so without fear of legal repercussion. Instead, he was to be released quietly, his actions never intended to be disclosed.

Most troubling of all, Mason has taken the arrogant stance that the public has no right to know when a UI employee has been found to have repeatedly sexually harassed students. In matters of internal discipline, Mason has made a conscious decision to put the interests of the administration ahead of the interests of the students, their parents, and the taxpayers to whom this public institution is ultimately accountable.

The attitudes that have come to light in recent weeks should instill no faith in the public about the transparency of the university’s leaders.

In this situation, UI students should be ashamed of their administrators, alumni should be ashamed of their university, and everyone in Iowa should be asking for more from their university officials.


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