Q&A: Mason talks sexual assault, expansion


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The Daily Iowan: The Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault that you created has been around for almost a year now. What progress do you think it has made and what should we expect to see next?

President Sally Mason: It has made a lot of progress on the Six-Point plan. I want to meet with the members this semester to go over the full scope and range of things that they’ve accomplished. They’ve done campus walkabouts, working on improving lighting; we’ve done a variety of things in terms of improving the learning experience about sexual assault a better experience. In other words, the videos, the mandatory education pieces. We use the committee now to vet those sorts of things before we decide on changing gears and going to a different one.

But a whole variety of steps have been taken, and I’m anxious to sit down with the committee, and go over those, and see what else they want to accomplish before, certainly before I’m done — and in preparation obviously for the change in administration. Because I’m going to assume, I hope correctly, that the next president is going to be very much interested in these topics and very much interested in making sure that that committee continues its good work.

DI: Now, you’ve recently met with the regents, and they noted that they have seen an improved communication with you meeting regularly, have you seen that communication improve as well?

Mason: Having a monthly meeting sit-down with Bruce [Rastetter] and Katie [Mullholand] makes it a lot easier for me to accumulate a list during the month of things that I want to talk to them about, things that we need to discuss — maybe have a little more in-depth conversation, so it’s been very useful. I think it’s been very helpful for them to understand the kinds of activities that are going on campus, as well as some of the challenges.

DI: At the last media availability, you touched on how there’s been some growth on campus and how you’d like to see more of that occur even when you are leaving, specifically what kind of growth are you hoping to see? Is the University of Iowa trying to keep on pace with Iowa State University?

Mason: AIB College of Business is a step along the way. I knew that was coming, I wasn’t quite sure when that was going to come — today’s the day — but that’s certainly another step along the way. I want to make sure the institution is poised for growth and that we do so in responsible way. One of the great things about the AIB merger is that that’s a fully fleshed out campus with housing. Adding students there is even easier than adding more students here while we’re still building residence halls and we’re still recovering from the flood. Those buildings are just a little over a year from being completed now. It all gets a little easier once we get the facilities in place. But AIB has got all of the facilities right there so that’s an opportunity for immediate growth — 1,000 students, maybe more.

DI: With the change in the funding model, are you worried at all that with the increase in hoping for more in-state students, there will be less diversity on the University of Iowa campus?

Mason: I think we’re working really hard to balance that, to make sure that while we increase the number of Iowa students that we are also increasing the number of students from other parts of the country and other parts of the world. That’s always been part of the ways in which we’ve been able to increase an enhanced diversity on our campus. It’s one of the things that everyone tells me they want to see that continue, and I think it’s good for the campus if it does continue.

DI: We had some letters in the DI from several graduate students, more specifically members of COGS, have filed a petition calling for a reimbursement for graduate employment fees; what would you say to those students who are looking to discuss this with you and the Board of Regents?

Mason: That’s part of collective bargaining, and they are in collective bargaining now, so that’s where they need to start. I’m not part of that discussion; they are certainly welcome to share their ideas and opinions with me, but it’s going to be more important to share it at the bargaining table. So that’s where I hope they get their points made, that people are listening.  

DI: You were recently named president emeritus and approved as a faculty member; do you see teaching in your plans?

Mason: I don’t know yet; that’s still something that I am pondering in the future. We’ll see. I enjoyed teaching for 25 years and loved every minute of it. I still do a little bit of it with my leadership class here, and from time to time, I manage to go to a classroom or two and share some wisdom or expertise that I might have. I always enjoyed it, so I’m never going to rule that out as a possibility for the future.

DI: How do you hope to see, with it coming up, Dance Marathon grow?

Mason: They’ve continued to grow every year. I think I mentioned recently in public that my first year here was the first year that Dance Marathon exceeded $1 million in fundraising. This year I know they are striving for $2 million, and I’m hoping that my last year here they’ll make that $2 million goal. One of the major ways they’ve done it is to constantly increase the number of students participating. That makes a huge difference in terms of their fundraising ability. They’ve also increased what I’ll call “external participants,” whether it’s UNI, or Iowa State, or even the local high school. I think it’s great, the way they’ve gotten creative and found more and more ways to increase the number of people and thus the fundraising possibilities.

So I don’t see this organization slowing down in the future. I see these students continuing to build momentum and for a great cause. Once that Children’s Hospital is completed, and they’re in there on a daily basis with the kids who have cancer and they see what this new facility means to the families and the children who are suffering from pretty devastating diseases, I think this is only going to motivate them even more, because they had a role in helping that Children’s Hospital be built and especially that cancer ward for children.

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