Guest Opinion: Some modest proposals for President Sally Mason


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Dear President Sally Mason:

I recently called for a Million Robot March to permanently delete Kinnick Stadium’s pink locker room, and, not surprisingly, the reaction was harsh. One guy emailed me to say, “You must have a very, very large vagina for such a big piece of sand to get lodged in it over pink lockers rooms [sic] at your school.” Another Hawkeye supporter was even more to the point: “Shut up fag, keep the pink locker room.”

You had a slightly different take on the subject. “To tear that apart and spend the money right now to redo that just seems like a very low priority to me,” you said. “Would a pink locker room have been my first choice? Probably not. But that predates me by quite a little bit.”

Translation: “I find the pink locker room problematic, but this form of institutionalized sexism and homophobia predated me — and anyway, it would cost too much to bother dealing with it.”

I have two big problems with your excuse that it is cost prohibitive to replace the pink locker room. First, the football team generates its own revenue, so these costs would not come out of the general-education budget. Second, UI paid $250,000 — on your watch — to an external firm that investigated the university’s handling of a rape involving football players.

For nearly a year after you arrived at this university, you consistently insisted that UI acted appropriately in its handling of that rape case. Not so, it turned out! The firm that managed the external investigation concluded, “The university's response to the alleged sexual assault was simply not adequate.”

In the course of these events, your administration signaled that UI cares more about its precious cash-generating sports teams than the safety of its students. This perceived callousness was reinforced last spring when you stated that ending rape is “probably not a realistic goal just given human nature,” and you upset people once again at the beginning of this semester when you said — in response to a sexual assault — “When you have 30,000 plus students on campus, things do happen.” Yes, “things” do happen.

These messages undermine some of the positive steps UI has made in creating a campus climate that eliminates misogyny and sexual assault. The university’s steadfast defense of the pink locker room, along with the fans’ sexist and homophobic comments, also undermine these efforts.

Let me be clear: I do not believe that the pink locker room directly provokes sexual assaults or anti-gay attitudes. It does, however, set an unfortunate tone. This juvenile, chest-beating stunt sends a message to students that UI believes that a little bit of gendered taunting is all in good fun and should continue because it is “tradition.”

But it’s still not too late to change the pink locker room, and I have a few modest proposals that I’m sure will make all sides happy.

(1) If the pink locker room is merely “color psychology” and has nothing to do with gender, it turns out that the Hawkeyes have been doing it wrong all along. The most current peer-reviewed research shows that blue is actually the most calming color (citations available upon request).

(2) If Hawkeye sports actually holds all the power and you don’t have the ability to change the pink locker room, then it makes sense for UI to go all-in and rebrand itself as Hawkeye University (tag line: Ya Only Live Once). Now that we are in a death match competition with ISU and UNI for Iowa students, this is a surefire way to improve enrollment.

(3) If you choose not to follow either of these two suggestions, we regret to inform you that our robot army will hold a hologram sit-in at your office in Jessup Hall. (Among other things, hologram robot protesters have the advantage of being impervious to pepper spray and other crowd-control tactics used by the police.)

Kembrew McLeod
professor, communication studies

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