Sunday, November 18, 2007

Football Story Has Muscular Legs

November 18, 2007, 7:00 a.m.

If UI Won't Talk, Regents Will

With three football players questioned in an alleged sexual assault case, questions swirl around UI and athletic program administrators: What did they know, when did they know it, and what did they do about it?

The story is turning out to, as they say in the news biz, "have legs." And the UI's efforts at amputation are proving to be even less successful than the few remaining football players' (10% of the team has had dealings with the law this season) efforts to achieve a come-from-behind victory against Western Michigan yesterday, having started off the afternoon spotting the visitors 19 points.

Now is the time. The UI's spokesperson is quoted in this morning's Register as saying,

"We know the time will come when we need to have the public understand what happened, but now is not the time."
Tom Witosky and Erin Jordan, "Gartner demands answers at U of I; At issue is the university's response to an alleged sexual assault. Three football players have been questioned in the case," Des Moines Register, November 18, 2007, p. A1.

Because I know this guy to be bright, accomplished and professional I'd be surprised if he makes this stuff up on the fly. I simply assume that he was either told what to say, or was smart enough to figure out what he would have been told had anyone bothered to tell him.

Obviously, I disagree. I think now is the time; indeed, it is past time.

Regents to the rescue. And, as the Register reports this morning, there is also disagreement regarding the UI's reluctance from at least two members of the UI governing body, the Board of Regents -- including its president, Michael Gartner, who emailed UI President Sally Mason,

The alleged crime itself is outrageous, if true, and is damaging to the reputation of the University and its athletic department. But if the policies are inadequate or the processes weren't followed, the damage is multiplied.

His concern is similar to that which I expressed in a lengthy blog entry Friday, Nicholas Johnson, "Trouble in River City; Locker Room Update: What Can We Know, and When Can We Know It?," November 16, 2007. (This was a follow-up to the entry from the day before, Nicholas Johnson, "Culling the Flock; How About Them Hawks?" November 15, 2007.)

There are two sets of questions and stories here:
What happened the morning of October 14 allegedly involving football players?
What happened thereafter, clearly involving UI administrators?

Let's make clear what I, and I believe Gartner, are -- and are not -- talking about.

We're not talking about revealing precisely what happened during the early morning hours of October 14. We're not talking about identifying the accuser or those accused.

What we are talking about is revealing to the media and public what the responsible adult, UI administrators did between October 14 and November 18 (today). That is something the public does have a right to know. Those revelations need not invade any privacy rights of the individuals involved. They need not affect the integrity of any trial that may or may not take place in the future.

If such revelations would cause harm, then the UI ought to explain why and how that would be the case. It is possible there are good reasons for not revealing what the responsible adults did. But in the absence of such explanations, stonewalling is neither a responsible way to exercise a public institution's obligations to provide transparency for the public -- nor, it usually turns out, a very effective public relations strategy either.

Why are local papers avoiding this story? Another mystery is why the local papers -- The Daily Iowan, The Gazette, and the Iowa City Press-Citizen -- have been so reluctant to ask these process questions of the University.

If they have asked these questions, and received answers, why have they not been reported? If they have asked these questions and couldn't get answers why have they not reported that story? And if they haven't even pursued this aspect of the story, why not?

Why do we have to rely on a newspaper, and Regents, in Des Moines to find out what's going on in Iowa City?

The Register's Chronology.

So how much has the Register dug up so far on the chronology?

Whatever is alleged to have happened occurred between 2:00 and 6:00 a.m. the morning of October 14.

Later that day, October 14, the UI Department of Public Safety received a "rape kit" from the UI Hospitals.

On October 23 two Hawkeye football players, whom Register sources say may have been with the complainant during the time in question, were removed from active participation on the team. The athletic program refused to provide any explanation at that time (or since, so far as I know) for their removal.

At 4:13 p.m. on November 5 a woman who wanted to report an assault "about three weeks ago" to the Iowa City Police was referred to the Campus Police.

By 4:50 p.m. that day, November 5, a report was received by the UI Department of Public Safety.

On November 7 that report became public. Department Director Chuck Green has been quoted as saying, "I assure you, before Nov. 7, we didn't know about this . . .."

On Wednesday, November 14, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agents joined Campus Police in searches of some Hillcrest dormitory rooms.

On Friday, November 16, five search warrants were sealed by Johnson County Judge Amanda Potterfield.

On Saturday, November 17, two of the Hawkeye football players whose room was searched (one of whom was earlier suspended from the team for drunken driving and later reinstated) both suited up for the Western Michigan game.
The Register provides names for most of its sources, and the players -- though not the name of their accuser -- along with specific dorm room numbers. For reasons explained in my prior blog entries I have chosen not to do that.

Will Gartner get an answer to his email? Will he share that answer with us? Will the Iowa City papers finally get on the story of administration action or inaction? When will the UI's spokesperson be permitted to announce that it is finally "the time when we need to have the public understand what happened," given that "now is not the time"?

Watch this space and see.

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Anonymous said...

Gartner and the Regents need to stay out of this. Since when did the Regents micro-manage the university administration? The Regents don't seem to put as much effort into trying to keep tuition affordable. They should advocate for funds, hire Presidents, and stay out of the internal affairs.

For some reason, this particular Board of Regents has had a much higher profile than any in history? Why? Could it be that someone likes being in the spotlight?

I don't see anything wrong with what the admin has done. No one is getting off easy here. They are trying to work it through without the needless hype the Register will add in its quest to sell more papers.

Anonymous said...

Right now, it does seem the Univ of Iowa should be left alone. It also seems certain regents like the spotlight.

Four letters lead to deliberate and conservative responses to assault accusations:


Unknown said...

Does anyone else find this odd?

According the the above referenced article in the Des Moines Register, both UI policy and Athletic Department policy require allegations of sexual abuse to be investigated by the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity:

"Once a formal complaint is filed, it is then investigated by the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, which can hold hearings to determination whether a violation occurred."

Why would the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity be allowed to investigate a possible criminal rape or any other sexual assault? Does that office have some sort of expertise in conducting investigations? Why would they have that expertise and not the Dept. of Public Safety?

This is a very strange policy in my opinion. A cynic might think it was set up to keep investigations from moving forward that did not meet the goals of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity.