October 1, 2014

Regents admonish U-I president for lack of communication on sexual assault issue (audio)

The Board of Regents met with University of Iowa President Sally Mason this afternoon to discuss her recent remarks regarding sexual assaults on campus. Mason drew criticism after saying in the student newspaper that the goal was to have no sexual assaults on campus, but added that was probably not possible “due to human nature.”

Regent Katie Mulholland of Marion read a statement to open the meeting that was critical of Mason for not contacting the board to discuss the issue “One of the most important responsibilities we entrust to you and all of our institutional heads, is that you are open and transparent with the board. And that you are able to communicate effectively  to the university community and the Board of Regents. By failing to communicate in a timely manner with this board, you effectively gave us no other choice but to have this meeting today,” Mulholland read.

Mulholland continued with the statement. “This board has addressed communications challenges with you in the past. If you cannot communicate with us and ask for advice and consul, how can we possibly help you?  During your last evaluation we outlined our expectations and we believe they are clear — that we believe communication is an area that needed to be developed strongly,” Mulholland read. “You agreed with us and the board re-prioritized your goals to make communications a top priority. And you supported that.” Mason agreed that communication has been an issue an apologized to the board.

Regent Ruth Harkin of Cumming asked Mason her point of view about what she sees as the problem with communication with the Board of Regents. Mason says she had set up a system to work through Regents executive director Robert Donnelly to funnel information through the board office. “And we’ve worked very hard to get information in a timely fashion — and all information, including information on this — to the board office. And that was the information I believe when president (Craig) Lange was in place,” Mason says. “We continued to work in that regard. And in December in meeting with regents Mulholland and Rastetter, we agreed that we would have regular monthly meetings. And unfortunately those haven’t happened.”

Mason says she was disappointed to not be able to have the meetings with Mulholland and Rastetter. “It’s been a bit of a frustration, I understand people’s schedules are very, very busy. But I had hoped that would additionally improve communications,” Mason says. Mason says she also sought to talk to the regents individually when the sexual assault issue came up. Mason says she tried to reach out to the regents at the time, but was told not to call them. She was asked who told her to not reach out the regents, and Mason replied Donnelly at president Rastetter’s request.

Executive director,Donnelly responded. “No, that wasn’t at president Rastetter’s request.,” Donnelly says, “What that was Sally, was that we had already determined that we were going to have this meeting here.  So I said ‘just hold your calls for now’ this thing is moving rapidly and within the next 24 hours you’ll be given your opportunity to make a public statement” Mason replied, “Okay.” The board then went into executive session at the request of Mason to further discuss the issue. The came back into open session and adjourned the meeting without comment.

Audio: Regents special meeting with U-President 21:00