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Rally wants action on assaults

BY LILY ABROMEIT | FEBRUARY 25, 2014 5:00 AM

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Following a student-led demonstration on Monday afternoon calling for change in how administrators handle sexual assaults, University of Iowa officials say they are open to discussion on the issue.

Approximately 50 students came and went across the Pentacrest grounds, passing out fliers and voicing their concerns with the rest of the campus as a response to a comment made by UI President Sally Mason last week.

“[The interview] just really fanned the flame, fueled the fire, and was our catalytic moment to start a movement to say ‘sexual assault is not in our nature,’ ” said UI graduate student Elizabeth Rook, who helped coordinate the demonstration.

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Rook said the group is not attacking Mason as a person but is asking her to come forward with a policy to eliminate sexual assault.

Rook and fellow coordinator UI senior Stacia Scott planned to meet with the UI Vice President for Student Life Tom Rocklin after the demonstration, to discuss possible solutions.

“The president asked me to hear their concerns and start working to understand how we can work together,” Rocklin said.

Primarily, she said, the assembled students were asking for an apology issued from Mason, a zero-tolerance policy and attitude, altered language in the Hawk Alert emails, and increased funding and attention to prevention programs at the UI.

Leslie Schwalm, the head of the UI Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies Department, said students are “really angry and really scared” and deserve better communication from representatives of their school.

“This is an issue on campus, and we have a basic human right to live and work in a place where we are free of the violence of sexual assault,” she said.

Schwalm said it is impossible to tell if the increased number of reports is a result of more people reporting or an increased number of incidents.

“I would never say if it’s more reporting or if it’s happening more. It’s horrible in any configuration,” she said. “Men on campus should not feel confident that they can do this and that they can get away with it.”

Mason said in a letter to the editor (appearing on today’s Opinions page) that she hopes to have an open conversation with students, staff, and faculty.

“I appreciate the comments and suggestions that I have received. I will convene a listening session in the near future so that students, staff, and faculty can share their views directly with me and other campus leaders,” she said.

Scott said she hopes to eventually reach an agreement and collaboration with the university.

“[We’re] looking for goals, action steps, objectives, and a timeline for the university,” she said. “We’re going to be talking about how this is going to be put into motion once we have collaborated on what we need to change.”


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