University of Iowa Has Long Past of Sexual Allegations
By Jennifer Earl, Reporter
IOWA CITY, Iowa - University of Iowa faculty, staff and students have filed nearly 400 sexual harassment complaints within the span of a decade.
UI Athletic Advisor Peter V. Gray resigned last week amid alleged violations of the UI sexual harassment policy, ranging from Gray making sexually explicit comments to providing football tickets and money in exchange for sexual favors.
Bob Downer, a member of the state Board of Regents, expressed concerns Monday about the UI's rehire of Gray. A leaked report said students and faculty had complained several times about Gray’s inappropriate comments and physical contact with students during his initial employment in the athletics department from 1993 to 1995.
But Gray’s not the only person at the UI to be the subject of sexual harassment complaints.
Sexual harassment was the third most-filed complaint at the UI, following disability and race discrimination. Reports obtained by The Gazette show 13 percent of the 942 students, faculty, and staff who filed complaints from 1999-2009 — the most recent available data — through the UI reported sexual harassment.
From 2005 to 2009, 53 percent of complaints were made by professional and merit staff and faculty, while roughly 30 percent were graduate and undergraduate students. Nearly 70 percent of those complaints were determined to be unfounded and didn't result in a disciplinary action.
Only about one UI student, faculty or staff member is terminated each year as a result of a complaint compared to two per year who withdraw or resign.
“It depends on what a person did,” said Rutgers University professor Barbara Lee, an expert in litigation involving sexual harassment. “Verbal harassment may result in reprimand, but if it’s a physical attack the person would probably be fired.”
Sexual harassment data from 2005 to 2009 shows an average 27 complaints a year for verbal harassment, 17 for physical harassment, eight for visual harassment and two listed as “other.”
The UI vowed to expand sexual harassment awareness in 2008, following the suicides of two faculty members.
Political science professor Arthur Miller shot himself with a rifle in Iowa City’s Hickory Hill Park after he was accused of accepting sexual favors in exchange for higher grades. Following Miller’s death, UI President Sally Mason announced a sexual harassment awareness campaign.
Shortly after the campaign began, a former UI graduate student filed a federal lawsuit against music professor Mark Weiger, accusing him of sexually assaulting her during the 2006-2007 school year. Weiger was found dead in his car a week later.
In 2009, Mason hired the UI’S first sexual misconduct response coordinator.
Students, faculty or staff who have experienced any form of sexual harassment can file a complaint with the misconduct response coordinator, diversity office, or an outside agency.
There are two paths a complaint can take, said UI spokesman Tom Moore, a formal complaint or informal resolution.
An informal resolution takes place within the department where the incident was reported. Informal resolutions include educational intervention, direct or facilitated communications between parties, or agreements on future behavior.
Informal resolutions can’t be used in sexual assault cases or other forms of violent behavior.
A formal complaint will be investigated by the diversity office, which will include interviews with the alleged victim, the complainant, and the accused, along with anyone else with information about the allegations.
Within 45 days of the complaint, the diversity office will issue a written finding.
“In some cases, an individual may be subject to discipline in multiple capacities,” said Moore.
An Oct. 24 report, obtained last week by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, showed that an internal UI investigation of Gray concluded that he’d violated the UI’s policy on sexual harassment.
Lee isn’t familiar with Gray’s case, but she said the UI needs to make sure the proper punishment is in place and victims are being taken care of.
“Whether the professor is still there or not, anything the victims need, whether it be counseling, making up hours, whatever they need, the institution needs to do that,” she said.
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