It’s possible some University of Iowa employees will face discipline in the handling of sexual harassment allegations against former Athletics Department adviser Peter Gray, UI President Sally Mason said Tuesday.
Any discipline stemming from the case will depend on what university officials find in additional investigation of the how university processes were followed and how complaints were acted upon, Mason said in an interview with The Gazette.
“Part of the reason we continue to do audits of what happened, what transpired and asking a number of questions along those lines is to determine exactly what happened, when it happened, who knew and whether further disciplinary actions need to be taken,” Mason said.
Changes announced Friday by Mason in the wake of the Gray investigation shift supervision of student-athlete advisers and of athletics compliance so they are overseen by top UI administrators. When asked Tuesday what this means for the job duties of Fred Mims, associate athletic director for athletic student service and compliance, Mason said she could not comment because that’s confidential personnel information.
“I think in reading the report, it was clear to me that we need to … do some further work in terms of understanding how well policies, our sexual harassment policies, were being followed,” Mason said. “At least in the case of the academics and compliance area, over in athletics, at least now for a while, having them duly report to the provost office and to general counsel makes a lot of sense while we continue looking into the facts of the matter that have occurred.”
That Gray’s behavior appeared to be ongoing, according to the internal university report, “absolutely concerns me,” Mason said.
“We’re absolutely looking at what kinds of things were done to address it and when they were done,” she said.
That internal university report, dated Oct. 24, details the allegations against Gray and says the investigation provided a reasonable basis to conclude he violated university policy on sexual harassment. That report was leaked to the Iowa City Press-Citizen a few days after Gray resigned Nov. 5.
Investigation into allegations against Gray began in early October, which is also when Mason was made aware a complaint had been filed, she said. Once a complaint is filed, Mason said, that “almost immediately kicks into an investigation.”
Regarding the window of time from the Oct. 24 internal university report and Gray’s Nov. 5 resignation, Mason said under university procedure for an ongoing investigation, “an individual in that situation would have been put on paid leave and would not be working at the university during that time.”
Mason said she could not comment specifically on why Gray was allowed to resign. But in speaking generally about a case where someone resigns rather than is terminated, she said if a resignation is offered on a voluntary basis there is no appeal process and “its done, it’s over in the university.” But if the university fires someone, the opportunity for appeal and further due process kicks in, she said.
To her knowledge, Mason said there has been no financial settlement between Gray and the university. Gray’s resignation letter, requested by The Gazette and other media outlets, has not been released because it’s part of his confidential personnel record, she said.
Gray, 59, at the time of his resignation was associate director of athletic student services, a job he held since 2002. He also worked in the UI Athletics Department from 1993 to 1995.
Mason said she was not aware of any previous complaints filed against Gray during his earlier employment with the university, but said if such complaints existed, they likely would be part of the confidential personnel record and not shared.
A university audit of hiring practices is among the actions Mason announced Friday. If Gray’s rehire in 2002 was a typical university hiring process, Mason said there would have been a search committee and a national search with multiple candidates interviewed. The decision on who to hire would have been a recommendation from the search committee and the job supervisor, she said.
Officials at Coastal Carolina University last week said Gray was fired from an academic advising position there in 1999, not for misconduct but for job performance. That school released some of Gray’s records, including the separation form and his offer letter, in response to media requests. When asked why the UI is not releasing similar documents regarding Gray, Mason said “I’m working on advice from our counsel.”
Hiring an employee who has been fired elsewhere “really depends on what information is available when you do reference checks,” Mason said.
“It’s part of the reason why we’re looking thoroughly into the hiring practices in this unit to make sure they were following not only good practices, but practices that are routinely and typically in place at the university,” she said.
It’s possible the UI audit of hiring practices and the investigation of processes in the areas of student-athlete advising services and compliance could take several months, Mason said. The results will not be ready in time to report to the state Board of Regents at the board’s Dec. 5 meeting, but Mason said she is optimistic the report will be ready for the Feb. 7 regents meeting in Iowa City.
“There’s too much work to be done to rush this,” she said.