While you were away

BY DI STAFF | AUGUST 26, 2013 5:00 AM

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Iowa Supreme Court backs Mason’s decision

The Iowa Supreme Court announced Aug. 23 it will uphold the ruling on a case that justified President Sally Mason’s firing of a former UI official.

On Sep. 23, 2008, Mason informed former UI Vice President of Student Services Phillip Jones that he was fired because of the way he handled the investigation into a sexual-assault case in Hillcrest in 2007. He sued Mason, the state Board of Regents, and the UI for wrongful termination and defamation in 2009.

In January 2012, Jones’ case was dismissed, and he filed an appeal the next month. The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld the dismissal of his case against Mason, the UI, and the regents.

His termination was the result of report from Stolar Partnership, a firm hired by the UI, Mason, and the regents to investigate the case. The report criticized the way the UI handled its investigation into the assault incident and singled out Jones and General Counsel Marcus Mills for their roles.
Jones was criticized for not adequately reprimanding the student-athletes who allegedly committed the assault nor protecting the woman who was reportedly assaulted from student harassment.
In his lawsuit, Jones alleged that his termination damaged his reputation and financial situation. He also claimed he was only fired because Mason gave into pressures from the regents and the media.

City moves forward on anti-loitering proposal

The Iowa City City Council on Aug. 20 approved the first consideration of a new ordinance that will put stricter limitations on activities common in downtown.

The new ordinance prohibits the storage of personal property downtown, lying on planters, lying on benches from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., use of public electrical outlets, and soliciting at parking meters and Pedestrian Mall entrances.

The City Council approved the first consideration of the ordinance on a 6-1 vote, with City Councilor Jim Throgmorton having the dissenting vote.

City staff and the Iowa City Downtown District claim these behaviors hinder the welcoming and enjoyable environment they want to preserve for patrons in the downtown area, but some local citizens voiced concerns about the proposed ordinance at the meeting. Councilors will vote on the second consideration of the ordinance during the council’s next meeting, Sept. 3.

City Council eliminates 500 foot rule

The Iowa City City Council has approved an ordinance to lift spacing restrictions on drinking establishments in outlying areas of Iowa City.

The ordinance passed with a vote of 6-1 vote, with Mayor Pro-Tem Susan Mims dissenting.

The spacing rule disallowed drinking establishments to open within 500 feet of one another. This ordinance eliminates these restrictions from all areas of the city excluding the University Impact Area — which includes downtown — and the Riverfront Crossing District.

The City Council approved the first consideration of the ordinance on July 23 with a 6-1 vote, with Mims having the dissenting vote. The second consideration was approved again on Aug. 6 with a 6-1 vote. Mims once again had the dissenting vote.

“I will vote no again,” she said prior to the vote. “Not that I’m against what I’m doing, but I think there should be some restrictions.”

UI recognized for literary merit

Amid recent news of the University of Iowa making lists for being a fun party school, one ranking has recognized the UI for its literary merit.

Beating even Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Columbia, Flavorwire has ranked the UI as the No. 2 most literary university in the country.

The renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop and prestigious list of alumni featuring names such as Flannery O’Connor and John Irving played the largest roles in earning the UI the No. 2 spot. Additionally, the reputation of The Iowa Review helped the UI.

Flavorwire looked at which schools have the best teachers, most famous alumni, and best environment for students most interested in literary subjects.

Princeton received the No. 1 spot on the list. It was recognized for its well-known alumni and highly skilled faculty. Flavorwire also referenced the school’s vast library, rare-book collection, and picturesque landscape among reasons for its ranking.

Regents name transparency officers

The state Board of Regents named transparency officers for all regent institutions.

At its meeting on Aug. 8, the regents approved all recommendations made by the Transparency Task Force, including the appointment of transparency officers to manage and record all public-records requests made of the Regents’ Office and regent schools. The University of Iowa transparency officer is to be Mark Braun, chief of staff and vice president for External Relations.

The Transparency Task Force was commissioned in February and was charged with the responsibility of finding the best practices for responding to public information requests and access to public information of interest to Iowans. Between April 5 and June 19 the task force received and reviewed public feedback on the transparency of the Regents’ Office and regent schools. On June 19, the task force completed its recommendations.

Other recommendations include public-comment sessions at each regent institution and at the Regents’ Office and the establishment of a written public-comment option for all docket decision items on each regents’ meeting agenda.

UI named No. 1 party school

The Princeton Review announced earlier this month that the UI has been crowned the No. 1 party school in its book The Best 378 Colleges: 2014 Edition.

The ranking marks a one spot rise from 2013.

According to the report, the UI stands at No. 1 in “Lots of Hard Liquor” and No. 4 for the “Lots of Beer” and the “Students Study the Least” lists.

The UI was ranked based on student answers to survey questions concerning alcohol and drug use on campus, the popularity of sororities and fraternities on campus, and the number of hours students say they spend studying outside of class.

For this year’s edition, 126,000 students from all 378 schools were surveyed by the Framingham, Mass.-based standardized test preparation and admissions consulting company.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said given the work that has been done at the UI to decrease the amount of high-risk drinking, the ranking by the Princeton Review seems counterintuitive.

Since 2009, the number of students engaging in high-risk drinking is down 17 percent and the average number of drinks per drinking occasion is down 20 percent, according to the National College Health Assessment survey.

“There seems to be a disconnect between the information coming from the Princeton Review and what we’re seeing from our students,” Moore said. “I think that it’s clear our students do a great job of balancing their academic responsibilities and social pursuits.”

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