University of Iowa President Sally Mason defended her job performance in a meeting with reporters late Wednesday afternoon. Mason has been publicly criticized in recent days by Governor Branstad and members of the Board of Regents. Prior to her news conference, a group of U-I faculty, staff and student leaders released a statement declaring their support for Mason.

Chemistry Department Administrator Earlene Erbe is president of the U-I Staff Council. “If somebody is going to evaluate the performance of a leader, they need to look at the entire picture, not at a few negative stories that hit the press and become these talking points,” Erbe said.

Recent controversies have involved allegations that high-ranking U-I officials ordered the destruction of documents detailing faculty dissatisfaction with the dean of the College of Education. Margaret Crocco, dean of the college for nearly 17 months, resigned this week.

Mason has also been criticized for her handling of a case involving a former academic advisor to student athletes who is accused sexual harassment. The statement from U-I leaders calls Mason a “skillful leader” who’s enabled the University to “thrive despite devastating floods and budget cuts.”

Erbe, going beyond the leaders’ group statement, is encouraging activism. “People need to step forward and let President Mason know they support her and they need to let their legislators, the Regents and the Governor know that they feel the University of Iowa is headed in a positive direction,” Erbe said.

The Board of Regents declined to renew Mason’s contract when it expired July 31. Mason is currently an “at-will” employee, meaning she could be fired at any time, without any advance notice and for any reason — or no reason at all.