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Mason addresses media, cautions against hasty judgement from public

BY ALISON SULLIVAN | DECEMBER 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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University of Iowa President Sally Mason said the public should not be so quick to judge her actions following a series of highly criticized incidents that led to questions about the school’s transparency.

“Until you’ve sat in my shoes for a few hours, you might want to be a little, perhaps, calmer about your judgment on things,” Mason said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “I always tell people … don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper.”

In the past several weeks, her priorities have come under fire from the state Board of Regents, local legislators, UI faculty members, and the governor.

They have criticized Mason and the university for the handling of sexual-misconduct allegations against a former Athletics Department adviser, as well as controversy in the UI College of Education that ultimately led to the resignation of the school’s dean.

But the turmoil seemingly came to a head on Dec. 7, when reports surfaced that regents had not renewed Mason’s contract in August. That development revealed she is working as an at-will employee.

On Wednesday, though, Mason said she’s not concerned and iterated she’s happy with the five-year compensation package she’s received from the board. Mason, 62, said it is “possible” she would retire within five years.

Mason also addressed the issues in the education school.

All seven members of the college’s Faculty Advisory Committee resigned last week following reports UI Provost Barry Butler ordered officials to hand over faculty comments about the former dean.

When asked Wednesday if the resignations were unusual, Mason said it is not uncommon to see faculty displeased with administrative actions.

“From time to time, faculty get frustrated with something, maybe it’s resigning from a committee, maybe it’s something else,” Mason said. “I think what turned out to be unusual is that some faculty meant to share it with the world. Usually, when they have disagreements, they really like to try to work through them in an intellectual way, having, full discussions and so forth.”

Volker Thomas, the former head of the advisory committee, said faculty and administrators had been engaged in internal discussions about these issues for months prior to the dean’s resignation.

“We all tried as hard as we could, but things got so stuck, it didn’t work anymore … on all levels,” Thomas said.

Tim Albrecht, the spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad, told the Associated Press the governor was concerned about “a lack of transparency” and disconcerting events that have taken place during Mason’s tenure.

Rep. Dave Deyoe, R-Nevada, said he’s had a good relationship with Mason and the UI, but there is room for increased communication.

“Sometimes, we don’t get quite as much information proactively from the University of Iowa,” he said. “It could be improved.”

Mason told reporters she would do what she could to address both the legislators’ and Branstad’s concerns.

“We’ll work harder to make sure the governor has the information he needs,” she said.

When asked about her thoughts on what some lawmakers perceive as a tone of arrogance, she said, “I hope that’s not the tone I leave with people. But if it is, I have work to do, without a doubt, and I will work on that.”


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