Gazette Editorial Board
Bob Downer has it right. The University of Iowa’s rehiring policy demands scrutiny. And apparently more accountability.
Downer, an Iowa City attorney and member of the state Board of Regents, commented on a UI internal investigation into an Athletics Department adviser accused of sexual harassment violations. Peter Gray resigned last week. UI officials aren’t commenting because it’s a confidential personnel issue.
To his credit, Downer asked questions no doubt on the minds of many Iowans, including the most important: “As far as the difficulties that he (Gray) apparently got into during his first employment, it’s hard for me to see, assuming these (news) stories are accurate, how he passed muster for re-employment …,” he said, adding that it will be important for regents to review rehiring policies at the state’s three public universities.
Gray worked for the UI Athletics Department from 1993 to 1995 and then again beginning in 2002. Internal investigation documents leaked to the Iowa City Press-Citizen indicated several people told UI investigators that Gray inappropriately touched student-athletes during his first term of employment.
The internal report, dated Oct. 24, also cited several complaints that the behavior continued after Gray returned to the UI and that he also was accused of providing football tickets and money for sexual favors, among other incidents.
Campus police records don’t show any criminal complaints against Gray. However, the UI investigation concluded that Gray violated the university’s policy on sexual harassment.
Gray’s rehiring, then, raises serious questions. Were the early complaints overlooked by background checkers? Did someone just look the other way, and then ignore later complaints? Is there a culture within the department or beyond that discourages speaking up, in order to protect other positions or the public image of the department or university? Is this case, God forbid, the tip of a wider problem?
It’s certainly not fair to extrapolate from this report and compare it to Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky debacle, which involved criminal sexual activity against minors. Still, red flags are waving. Follow-up action must ensure that university hiring practices are vetted and adjusted as warranted.
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