Legislators express communication issues with UI following Mason contract news


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State legislators have expressed mixed reactions to the news that University of Iowa President Sally Mason is working without a contract.

According to a letter obtained by the The Daily Iowan, Mason’s contract, which was considered at-will on Aug. 1, was not renewed by the state Board of Regents after Regent President Craig Lang asked Mason to “reframe and reprioritize” her goals for 2012-13.

“Based upon my discussion with the Board of Regents in August, the board and I set mutually agreed upon goals that I am committed to reaching,” Mason said in a statement released on Dec. 7. “The regents have asked us to improve our outreach across the state and the university’s relationship-building with the Iowa Legislature and to set specific targets on a range of objectives.”

In records obtained by the DI, Mason has released a list of revised goals to be completed by June 30, 2013, the first of which concerned communication, which was assigned a priority of “30 percent.”

Other goals concerned subjects such as fundraising, federal funding, health care, and achieving standards in the Regents’ Strategic Plan.

No regent was available for comment Sunday evening.

Some state legislators expressed frustration with Mason and the university’s communication in general.

“I’m disappointed that I’m finding out about [Mason’s contract] from the media,” Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said. “We’re out in left field here. I’m disappointed in both the board and the university for not keeping local legislators up to speed.”

Jacoby said the lack of communication could have repercussions for the regents and, consequently, the university.

“If the regents have information that they haven’t shared with legislators, it may be very difficult to make sure the regents’ pools are adequately funded,” he said. “Some legislators paint a wide brush in terms of funding.”

Rep. Dave Deyoe, R-Nevada, thought that while it was unlikely the Legislature would reduce funding for the regents, he also would like to see improved outreach efforts from the regents.

“In the past, communication has been poor,” he said. “They’ve improved, but [the regents] still have a ways to go.”

However, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, thought the university had a good presence in the Statehouse.

“There are numerous examples of the university involved in outreach,” he said. “Can it do more? Absolutely, but I think it’s doing a good job.”

Rep. Chip Baltimore, R-Boone, said communication was available through the university lobbyist in the Statehouse, but he believes legislators needed to look into the issues themselves.

“There have been times that communications were strained, where information was subject to interpretation,” he said. “Some of us do a better job of asking follow-up questions. We don’t take the information [from the university] as gospel; it has an agenda like everyone else.”

However, Baltimore didn’t think any issues were purposely kept from the Legislature.

“The board is supposed to operate somewhat independently,” he said. “The Legislature doesn’t have to know all the details. I’m not overly concerned with communication. If I have questions, I can initiate contact.”

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