Remember those T-shirts we used to have that read: "University of Iowa, Idaho City, Ohio"?
The only problem with them was that those of us who live here soon found them boring, and those who were visiting from out of town didn't get the joke.
If you think keeping the rest of America clear about the difference between Idaho, Iowa and Ohio was a challenge, let me tell you, that's nothing. When I was a kid the two largest Regents' universities in Iowa were called the "State University of Iowa" and "Iowa State University." (Now you see how WSUI got its call letters; "SUI," get it?) Even alums of both schools had a little difficulty keeping those names straight, and we finally simply gave up on continually correcting the national media.
Now that we're the "University of Iowa" we're back to just worrying about Idaho and Ohio.
As the celebrities say, "I don't care what you write about me, just so long as you spell my name right." And for the most part the media's spell checkers are in working order.
At the University of Texas we used to sing, "The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You." Here, it's usually "the eyes of Iowa" that are watching us -- or at least the eyes of the Register, Gazette, Press-Citizen, and Daily Iowan (among others) that see what we're up to and report it to those Iowans who care.
Over the years the University has done a better and better job of discovering and disseminating its good news stories -- thanks to some very able UI news and public relations people.
But they neither make the news nor, seemingly, have the authority to use their best media relations judgment when the news isn't all that good -- as with the current flap over the deafening silence regarding how university administrators handled the latest allegations of a sexual assault by athletes.
Because most publicists counsel administrators that stonewalling is not a very effective way for an institution to deal with bad news, I can only assume our publicists' silence has been ordered by others rather than having been self-imposed.
Although I'd never heard of the Pennsylvania-based national organization "Security on Campus" before seeing the story on page one of the Press-Citizen yesterday [Jan. 12], it was fully predictable that the longer we tried to keep the lid on Hawkgate the further it would go once the steam built up and it blew. Brian Morelli, "National Watchdog Group Keeping Eye on UI," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 12, 2008, p. A1.
So now, it seems, "the eyes of Pennsylvania -- and the rest of the nation -- are upon you," University of Iowa.
As Morelli reports, "Fed-up parents created Security on Campus to push reluctant universities to release campus crime information." When the universities failed to respond to their pleas, the group "helped establish six federal laws, including . . . the Cleary Act" -- which is the federal law the UI may be violating.
"Are they covering something up? That really is the qustion," Morelli quotes the group's senior vice president, S. Daniel Carter, as asking.
There's more to the story, and I won't repeat it all here. Use the link, above, to read it.
Tomorrow, January 14, will mark the three-month anniversary of the alleged assault. Unlike wine and cheese, the University's attempt to deal with the matter with silence (that is, what UI administrators did or did not do, not facts of the case affecting the alleged victim's privacy interests or the Johnson County Attorney's investigation) is not improving with age.
And unfortunately they're spelling our name right.