Telegraph Herald. March 7, 2014.
Iowa Regents could do more to address sexual assault
When the Iowa Board of Regents called out University of Iowa President Sally Mason last week, the regents might have been missing the larger issue.
Notice of the special meeting held Feb. 28 stated the reason for the meeting as: “To receive an explanation from President Sally Mason regarding her remarks on sexual assault.” Mason had been interviewed by the campus newspaper, The Daily Iowan, for a story about the high number of sexual assaults on campus during this school year. A comment Mason made in the article struck a wrong note, upsetting some students and perhaps some parents and alumni.
Regents President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland (a former Dubuquer and assistant superintendent here) chastised Mason and called her comments “inappropriate.” Mullholland said the regents were concerned about students who might have found those comments hurtful.
The reaction to this seems over-the-top. Here’s what Mason said: “The goal would be to end that, to never have another sexual assault. That’s probably not a realistic goal just given human nature, and that’s unfortunate, but the more we understand about it, the better we are at trying to handle it and help people get through these difficult situations.”
Is it an articulate and well-thought-out statement? No. Is she wrong to say that we’ll probably never eradicate sexual assault? No - just as we’ll never eradicate robbery or murder or other criminal behavior. But, while her words aren’t the most comforting coming on the heels of a spate of campus sexual assault reports, most people can probably concede that they can understand what she meant.
Yet the regents demanded explanations and apologies and generally gave Mason a serious scolding for her words. The issue of Mason’s choice of words pales in comparison to the problem of sexual assault on campus and how it is being addressed. If the regents want to dig into an issue, this is where the University of Iowa could use some guidance. A recent sexual assault reported on campus brought this school year’s total to nine.
Mason is working to address concerns with a six-point plan to combat violence. Plans include getting tougher on offenders (expulsion as warranted), offering more support to survivors, improving prevention education and communication. In a listening session with students last week, Mason disclosed she herself had been the victim of a sexual assault as a college student.
That underscores the fact that this is a long-term problem. What makes sexual assault even more difficult to address is the fact that it is significantly underreported. Typically, only 40 percent of victims report sexual assault. On college campuses, that number falls to just 12 percent. One reason is because a high number of campus assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. Looking for ways to curtail sexual assault requires vigilance, education and a collective effort by stakeholders at all levels.
Those are some of the issues the Iowa Board of Regents might have chosen to dig into. A serious conversation about sexual assault prevention at the regents level would do more to address the problem than reprimanding Mason for her poorly chosen semantics.
Globe Gazette. March 5, 2014.
Branstad’s right: Don’t cut National Guard strength
They’re crucial to have around in emergencies. And Iowa National Guard members have performed exceptionally when called on to go to foreign battlefields.