University of Iowa president Mason apologizes for sexual violence comments

'I have zero tolerance for sexual misconduct'

Vanessa Miller
Published: February 25 2014 | 12:44 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 4:08 am in

One day after dozens of University of Iowa students protested President Sally Mason’s comments related to string of sexual assaults on or near campus, Mason apologized and reaffirmed her position on the topic.

“Several members of our campus community have let me know that my remarks on sexual assault printed last week in The Daily Iowan were hurtful,” Mason said Tuesday morning during a regular Presidential Forum for campus leaders. “I did not intend them to be, and I am sorry for the pain my words caused.”

The group of UI student protestors created a website late Sunday – notinmynature.com – inspired by Mason’s comments to the student newspaper that ending sexual assault on campus is “probably not a realistic goal, just given human nature.”

The website made several demands of Mason and the university, including that she apologizes for her comments and adopts a “zero tolerance” attitude and policy regarding sexual violence.

“I do want to make my position clear,” Mason said Tuesday morning during the forum. “I believe there is no excuse for sexual assault. I have zero tolerance for sexual misconduct. I know that sexual assault is never the fault of the survivor.”

UI police have issued eight “timely warnings” this academic year related to reports of sexual assault on or near campus. That is up over last year, partly because there are more reports, the UI is issuing them for more than just stranger sexual assaults and various UI departments are communicating better, UI officials said.

Some students have been upset with the wording in the warnings, saying they place blame on victims by highlighting risk factors – like consuming alcohol or drugs. Revising the content of those emails also is among the student demands.

“I don’t see them as demands,” Mason said Tuesday morning. “I see them as reasonable requests. We will be taking care of those requests in the very near future.”

A group of UI students, graduates and community members first protested Mason’s comments Sunday afternoon during the 2014 Presidential Lecture. Following Monday's protest on the Pentacrest, concerned students met with Vice President for Student Life Tom Rocklin on the issue, and Mason said she plans to continue discussing the topic with students.

For starters, Mason said, she will hold a “listening session” Thursday afternoon in the second-floor ballroom at the Iowa Memorial Union.

In her comments Tuesday, Mason highlighted steps the university already is taking to combat sexual violence, including being among the first in the nation to appoint a sexual misconduct response coordinator and instituting mandatory training for students, staff and faculty.

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