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Presidential access

As a young man, I went to Hancher once a month. Not the auditorium, the man — Virgil M. Hancher, University of Iowa president 1940 to 1964.

He welcomed student leaders to his office in Old Capitol, patiently heard their concerns and forwarded them to the dean of students. Regular visitors included the Daily Iowan editor. From May 1962 to February ’63, that was me.

Wise policy, a monthly sit-down with student journalists. Friction is inevitable. But to visit with potential adversaries in tranquil times is to build rapport against the day controversy erupts. Hancher’s successors over the years embraced the tradition.

Some of the time it can’t have been easy. For example, when racial issues flared in Iowa City in the early ’60s, The Daily Iowan reacted. Among other efforts, it implored the university to step up its push against off-campus housing discrimination. Hancher could have been tempted to insulate himself from the turmoil. But he and Dean of Students M.L. Huit responded, and the university and community were better for the reform.

So it’s disappointing today to read that university officials have canceled the president’s monthly sit-downs with student journalists. All because of the way the national news media picked up Sally Mason’s remarks regarding sexual assaults on campus.

May they rethink their decision. Regular contact between university president and student leaders is too productive a tradition to discard in the heat of the moment.

Jerry Elsea

The purpose of higher learning

I understand that Serhat Tanyolacar’s piece was offensive to some (and I do not doubt that it was intended to be) and that President Sally Mason felt called upon to respond to the legitimate concerns of the students. “Terrorized,” however, seems to me a bit overblown as a description of any reasonable person’s reaction to the sculpture. Offended, upset, repelled … sure, but let’s not jump the shark with the terminology here.

And, while I agree with Erin Manfull that the First Amendment issue is important, my real problem with the university’s response is its assumption that the campus should be a pleasant place where everyone feels comfortable and free from the possibility that she or he may be offended. The administration seems to be operating with a business model that sees students as paying customers and that, as such, they should be cossetted, lest we lose their tuition dollars.

An older (and I think more valid) paradigm of an institution of higher learning is that of a dynamic environment in which everyone (and this, of course, includes the faculty, and to some extent, the administration and the staff) has her or his ideas challenged — even attacked — on a regular basis. Granted, I  am a West Coast ’60s kind of guy, so I have a certain bias.

But I believe the job of the artist is not just to make pretty things but to show us the world in ways that are not immediately visible to us. It’s a risky enterprise, and often the artist’s efforts are unsuccessful; but the cost of shutting down that discourse is the vitality of the intellectual realm.

Tom Baer

Online comment on ‘Manfull: Removal of KKK statue misguided’

He had no permission from the university to put the statue up to begin with, thus NO standing when it comes to his free-speech "violation.” Simply because he is already in the wrong; he had no permission from the university to put the statue on its property, and that is merely enough reason to take it down.

Every student organization, visiting group, art display, etc., must be given permission by the university before they get on the Pentacrest. As a student-organization leader, I know we face fines if we fail to get permission. Had he received permission beforehand, you MAY have a case. The university makes these provisions for a reason, and it is to protect people from harmful displays such as the KKK statue. Sure — it’s art, art is supposed to elicit a response in the viewer. But had the artist himself followed the rules set by the university, there wouldn’t be a problem. I’m no lawyer by any means, but we can’t leave out crucial information such as this and then say it was an infringement upon the artist’s rights.

Taylor Liana Watson

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