Thursday, September 25, 2008

Failing a student who asks for our help is unacceptable. Failing to be transparent and accountable to the Board of Regents, and ultimately the people of Iowa, is unacceptable. Our students and their parents expect more of us. The University community as a whole expects more of us. The citizens of Iowa expect more of us. I expect more of us. I offer my apologies to the young woman involved in this case, to her parents, to our community, to our Board, and to the citizens of Iowa.

We are grateful to the Board of Regents for commissioning an in-depth and impartial investigation of the University’s policies, procedures, and actions with respect to the allegations of sexual assault made by a student athlete against other University athletes last fall. It is clear from the Stolar Group’s report that most University officials followed our established procedures. However, it is also clear that those procedures are flawed, and that some University officials did not do all they could have done or should have done, even within those procedures, to ensure that the young woman was protected and supported by the University.

I took several steps this week aimed at restoring trust in the University of Iowa.

I terminated the employment of Vice President for Student Services Phillip Jones and UI General Counsel Marc Mills on Tuesday, September 23rd.

Vice Provost Tom Rocklin has assumed the responsibility of Interim Vice President for Student Services with all of the reporting responsibilities of that office. I have asked Interim Vice President Rocklin to begin work immediately on the following tasks: 1) Work collaboratively with the committee that we set up this past summer, led by Professor Lee Anna Clark, to review all aspects of student services. I expect a report from this group by early February; 2) implement immediate measures to address students not living in their assigned residence hall rooms, and recommend changes in policies and language in the residence hall room contracts for next year to clamp down on “ghosting;” and 3) work with Athletic Director Gary Barta to foster a culture of mutual respect, not only among student-athletes, but also throughout our entire student body. We must make certain that the kind of harassment of the young woman that occurred after the alleged assault is tolerated by no one.

We will begin a national search for a new Vice President for Student Services before the fall semester is over. We will be searching for an individual who knows and understands the best practices of student services, can bring new ideas and new energy toward changing the alcohol culture among our students, and will help build a community of mutual trust and respect.

I have asked Carroll Reasoner to step in as Interim Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel. Ms. Reasoner is eminently qualified to stand in as UI’s General Counsel. She was the first woman and the youngest person to serve as the president of the Iowa State Bar Association. She has served on the state judicial nominating commission selecting individuals for appointment to the Supreme Court of Iowa. She has been recognized by listings in Who's Who in American Law, Who's Who in American Women, and Who's Who in Emerging Leaders; recognized by the Des Moines Register as an Up and Comer; and has been ranked in the Best Lawyers in America for over 20 years.

We will also begin a national search for a new Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel immediately. It is my goal to have both Vice President searches completed by the end of this academic year.

Our task now is to move ahead and take those additional steps that will restore trust in our ability to maintain a safe and vibrant learning environment. Since we met last Thursday, I have read and re-read the Stolar Report. I have consulted with people inside and outside The University of Iowa. I completely agree with the report’s recommendations and conclusions, and I pledge to lead the University’s efforts to implement, and even exceed, the recommendations without delay.

First, I demand and expect zero tolerance of sexual assault and sexual misconduct at The University of Iowa. We all must take swift and decisive action to show both victims and offenders that we will not tolerate such behaviors in any form.

Second, we will work closely and collaboratively with the Board and all the Regents institutions. Together we will engage experts outside of the universities who are well-versed in best practices and can recommend easy-to-understand and easy-to-follow policies and procedures on these sensitive issues

Third, I am immediately making our policies clear, workable, and enforceable. We are committed to a victim-centered process in which victims are fully informed about the options available to them, are allowed to make the decision on which options to choose, and are supported in that process to the fullest extent of our abilities. However, we are also aware that victims are in a stressful situation and must be given the maximum assistance and support possible to understand their options and make their decisions.

The interim steps we will be taking are as follows: 1) No University official or department will attempt to engage in an “informal” resolution of sexual assault allegations. 2) There will be a central point of contact for victims. The central point of contact will be the Women’s Resource and Action Center, directed by Monique DiCarlo, and she will report directly to me. I have also asked her to strongly encourage every victim to report the assault to the police. 3) When anyone reports a sexual assault, the victim will immediately be assigned a trained victim advocate, who is mandated to accompany the victim in all dealings with University employees and officials concerning the assault and who can not be dismissed at any time. The advocates will be assigned by the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, directed by Karla Miller.

I have consulted directly with Karla Miller and Monique DiCarlo about these changes, and both are committed to making sure there is a seamless system focused on the victim in place starting today and continuing until the new formal policy is in place.

With the steps already taken, those new steps that we have outlined today, and those we will be taking with the Board and our sister institutions, we will begin to move the University forward. We will not only meet what is expected of us, but we will exceed those expectations. We will work at creating a model process, one that other institutions can look to with confidence.

The safety of our students and our entire University community, the trust that our state’s citizens place in us, and the integrity of our institution are—and must be—our highest priorities. My commitment is to ensure that our policies and procedures fulfill those highest expectations and values.

Thank you for the opportunity to share these important matters with you today.