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Mason should be concerned about her job

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | DECEMBER 14, 2012 6:30 AM

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At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, University of Iowa President Sally Mason played down the significance of the state Board of Regents’ August decision to deny her a new contract, citing her five-year deferred compensation package and a recent 2 percent raise as evidence of her support from the regents.

“The contract issue to me is not one I have much concern over,” Mason said, “especially given the way I’ve been treated [by the regents].”

But any reasonable interpretation of the recent relationship between Mason and the regents casts doubt upon the president’s affirmation of her own good standing. In August, the regents denied Mason a new contract, citing a need for her to revamp her goals for the next academic year. More recently, Regent President Craig Lang spoke critically about the UI’s response to the resignation of Athletics Department adviser Peter Gray amid an ongoing internal sexual-harassment investigation.
“Clearly, the latest incident at the UI suggests the UI is not doing a good enough job in this area,” Lang said.

Mason warned the public against hasty judgments of her job performance, brushing off any criticism as misguided or even naïve.

“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,” the president said. “I always tell people … don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper.”

First, no matter how high a person climbs on the ladder of success, it is expected that the person conduct herself with integrity, taking responsibility for degradation of duty instead of taking easy shots at the media and the public for displaying a healthy level of skepticism.

And though her job is no doubt incredibly stressful, highlighting the difficulty of one’s employment as an excuse to be distant from public scrutiny is petty, especially given the various scandals and transparency issues the UI administration has been a part of in the time Mason has been president.

Furthermore, being a president at a public university usually merits some well-deserved public judgment, because most of $450,000 in Mason’s salary is paid by Iowa taxpayers.

Finally, for someone who can use the press as a means of getting information to the public she is supposed to be serving, Mason seems entirely too flippant about the media.

In an interview with the Iowa City Press Citizen, Mason replied to the question of how future employers would learn about Gray’s speckled past: “Read the newspapers.” This statement is in juxtaposition to her skepticism of the validity of criticism involving her administration, meaning the president is either truly unsure if the press can be trusted or she sees the Fourth Estate as merely a machine that is only useful when it is spitting out pro-Mason propaganda. This in light of the Gray controversy and the abrupt resignation of seven faculty members from a College of Education Advisory Committee and the dean of the education school.

“These are not unusual situations by any stretch of the imagination,” Mason told the media Wednesday. “The fact that they get as much attention as they do here, I think that’s [the media]. That seems to be the news that [the media] want to report.”

Though her press conferences and monthly question-and-answer sessions unlock fruitful answers, the sessions are irregular and prone to sudden scheduling conflicts. These sessions are a tool for Mason to use, and we urge her to be proactive in using this tool in the coming semester.    

And, despite what the president said, transparency is an issue she should be concerned about. Criticism of Mason has not been limited to the regents, however; this week, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad also expressed concern about a lack of transparency in the UI administration.

The recent confluence of events at the university has led some to call for Mason’s resignation. The Daily Iowan Editorial Board does not believe that the recent events merit resignation, but we do believe that Mason must improve her crisis communication, or her remaining time at Iowa will be brief and beset by controversy and she will ultimately pay the heavy price.


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