Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What in the world is going on at the U of I?

The U of I's handling of an alleged sexual assault deserves the tough questions being asked. There are valid reasons the Board of Regents re-opened its investigation.

Shawn Terrell and Sonya Heitshusen investigated this story for months, beginning in late October. They were told several things off the record that we couldn't confirm on the record. We thought those details wouldn't see the light of day unless the case reached trial. The mother's letter changed much of that.
(addendum: Sonya continued working sources diligently, just as the Iowa City Press Citizen did. Often times sources tell you something off the record because they're trying to steer you in a direction, but without being accountable for that information. When no one will go on the record, as was the case despite Sonya's repeated requests, you are stuck. Props to the Press Citizen for breaking through, and to Sonya and Shawn for continuing to ask tough questions that were not popular at the U of I.)

There were many things about the way Iowa handled this that troubled me long before reading the letter. However, after seeing the mother's pain and frustration leap off the page, it's no wonder so many people feel concern, if not outrage.

For the most part, we have only heard from one side. We must remember that, especially now as emotions run high. However, there are some details that cannot be explained away, unless the mother and father of the alleged victim are making things up, and I know of no one who believes that.

I won't go over the entire list here. I think Andy Fales did a good job of asking the relevant questions in this week's "What's Bugging Andy?".

Among the apparent inexplicable details: How could the alleged victim be forced to live a few doors down from her attacker (and his girlfriend)?

Why wasn't the alleged victim immediately assigned an advocate? President Mason's explanation that the alleged victim's father was her advocate defies belief. Is she serious? Does anyone think this sounds like a good idea? President Mason is not off to a good start at Iowa when it comes to leadership.

Why did the University hold back the mother's letters from the Regents? It hurts credibility.

Why did Iowa athletic officials reportedly suggest the student let the University keep it in house and do its own investigation? If you don't understand the influence the people in that room would have over a young student-athlete, you likely haven't played sports.

Why didn't the alleged victim's coach give her and her family more help and guidance? Why did the mother feel no one was in charge?

Did anyone at Iowa actually think removing the suspects from the active football roster was enough to satisfy the alleged victim?

Why was an assigned football dorm room empty? And why did Kirk Ferentz send two players in there to live after he knew a serious crime allegedly took place there? I suspect it was just questionable judgment, and there's a lot of that going around.

Sadly, I could go on. And on.

Most unfathomable of all is how something could be mismanaged this poorly just a few years after the Pierre Pierce debacle. What kind of policies were put in place that allowed a department to conduct its own internal investigation despite the obvious conflict of interest? Can a University administrator actually hear a rape allegation and not be required to tell the police?

I don't think any of the people being called into question obstructed justice or committed a crime, but they appear guilty of bad judgment. I don't doubt University officials "followed protocol" as Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta told Sonya three times. But even if they technically followed the rules, shouldn't we expect more from our leaders? If you just heard from a devastated Iowa student who said she walked into a room a virgin and walked out covered in blood after being raped, wouldn't you do everything in your power to get the police involved immediately?

It's also fair to ask that after all those embarrassing arrests, disappointing losses, and widely circulated Facebook pictures, if the climate was right for otherwise smart and reputable people to act too much in their own interests instead of those of a student-athlete they had reason to suspect suffered a terrible rape. Perhaps they couldn't even think straight. The pressure of big time, big money college athletics has a way of doing that.

When we finally are able to hear the University of Iowa's side, I believe the administration will have well thought out explanations for much of what happened. It certainly won't appear so one-sided. It's hard to imagine it will be enough.

I know Ferentz, to his credit, removed the players from the team in timely fashion. I realize the alleged victim could have gone to the police, even if urged otherwise. I know the accused are innocent until proven guilty. But none of that gets to the root of what keeps swirling around in my mind.

If I had a daughter, or sister, at the University of Iowa, would I be satisfied that the leaders in this case did everything they could to make a terrible situation as tolerable as possible? For now, the answer is a resounding no.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

BULLSEYE.

travis ballstadt said...

My biggest question is, and I'm not faulting the victim, but, why does 911 in Iowa City ring the Athletic Director's office?

"911, this is Gary Barta, how may I direct your call? Mmm-hmmm, mmmm-hmmm. Okay, please hold while I forward you to Coach Ferentz."

Seriously, though. When a crime is committed against you, you call the police. Not the AD, not the president of your university. Nine. One. One.

Anonymous said...

This whole mess not only makes me angry with the U of I administrators, it makes me angry with the media as well. The Iowa City Press Citizen was the ONLY media outlet with the courage to demand the truth, even though they had the most to lose in this whole matter by biting the hand of their hometown university.

The Des Moines Register removed Tom Witosky, their investigative reporter, from the case. Isn’t it interesting to find that Wistosky’s son is a U of I student who recently landed an internship in office of Alfredo Parrish (the lawyer who is representing one of the alleged rapists)?

Marty and Miller, the hosts of the popular KXNO radio sports talk-show, admitted that their general manager told them in no uncertain terms to back off on discussing this mess. Ken Miller said that they would have lost their jobs if they talked about what they knew before the facts became public.

And now you indicate that you and your colleagues at WHO TV knew many of the sordid details from “off the record” discussions and you didn’t expect those details to be exposed unless the case went to trial.

I thought it was the responsibility of the media to EXPOSE corruption, especially when it exists in state government. But you and your media colleagues are so concerned about protecting your own welfare that you were willing to let a public university cover up the gang rape of a young woman if the facts weren’t brought to surface by someone else. Psychologists refer to that as “diffusion of responsibility”.

I’m sorry to sound so harsh, but I think you and your media colleagues should take a long hard look in the mirror. You are the only hope that the public has for keeping state government honest and accountable.

Anonymous said...

I bet stuff like this happens more often than not at other Universities, but we just don't hear about it.

At any rate, as a Hawkeye fan, I am disgusted about this whole thing. Every program and University has something to hide.


--Gary

Keith Murphy said...

Anonymous,

You couldn't possibly be more off base about our role in investigating this case. There's a big difference in hearing something, and having enough information to go public with it, and it certainly doesn't mean we stopped trying.

I'll add an addendum to the story to clarify.

Thank you for your feedback. Your heart is clearly in the right place, even if you don't understand what actually happened.

Keith

Anonymous said...

QUOTE: You couldn't possibly be more off base about our role in investigating this case.

Keith,

I guess I misinterpreted your original post. I thought Channel 13 was withholding information about this case that they knew to be true because they didn't want to stick their necks out. I appreciate your addendum.

I'm still skeptical, though, that the media outlets (with the exception of the IC Press Citizen)did all they could to expose the cover-up. I guess I incorrectly assumed that channel 13 was following the example of the DM Register and KXNO. My apoligies.

James said...

"911, this is Gary Barta, how may I direct your call? Mmm-hmmm, mmmm-hmmm. Okay, please hold while I forward you to Coach Ferentz."

Whether or not the victim SHOULD have called 911 is irrelevant...

Why did Barta take the call then? Your logic is no good. If that is the case then Barta shouldn't have attempted to handle the situation.

Anonymous said...

Murph:
I agree....I wasn't implying that it would stick to Kirk. Let's face it....
Housing scandal including his own son in living in rentals for the poor...
Internet pictures with players holding up thousands of dollars....
Antawn Allen breaks a guy's jaw and plays in the bowl game....
Sam Aeillo beats Buetjer nearly into a coma, and Buetjer is told to move back in with him and not press charges....
Ghost Rooms, Rapes, 20 arrests, credit card scandal....
Yet we still hear how he runs a program with integrity. Man, if Stalin had this kind of press coverage, we'd all be speaking Russian.

I was encouraged by your poll last night....93% think Iowa had the best interest of the football program over the victim. That number is staggering. The truth usually shines through.

By the way, which was the funnier comment by Gary Barta this week.
After an astounding 19 arrests....a fat, nearly naked freshman runs away from eight cops and gets arrested. Barta's comment, "We won't tolerate this!" Am I the only one who sees the irony in this? It's like George Bush saying gas prices are too high, while they continue to go up.
However, this is my favorite Barta comment of the week.....after the Regents reopen the case, he says the hardest part has been the integrity of himself and Kirk being called into question. Are you kidding me? Don't forget, Ramona Cunningham did everything by the book.
This would all be hilarious if there wasn't a rape victim involved, who had to be called a "whore" for five weeks while living by these scumbags. Wow, how dare we question their integrity.
Brad Z.

Sara said...

I'm done supporting U of I athletics until this gets straightened out. I know they don't get much money from me and I maybe don't matter in the overall scheme of their athletic program, but I put the Hawkeye clothing away because it hurts right now to see it.

People and principles should be valued more than athletics. I'd believe that even if it came at the expense of a team winning every game.

Shane - Marshalltown said...

"My biggest question is, and I'm not faulting the victim, but, why does 911 in Iowa City ring the Athletic Director's office?"

1. Most sexual assaults go unreported.

2. If I have correct information, the victim is also an athlete.

My guess is, she was reporting to where she felt most comfortable talking about it at all.

Let's face it, very few of us, and I wish that was NONE of us, will ever know what it's like to be a rape victim. So let's be careful about how we throw around "why wouldn't she" or "why didn't she".

My blame grenade would be lobbed squarely in the direction of Ferentz and Barta, who, on the surface at least, without all of the information being available, appear to have more concern about "oh no, how bad is the program going to look NOW??" when they should've been seizing the opportunity to say "enough is enough is enough" and encouraging a full police investigation, rather than shying away from one.

If they had handled this correctly, the only ones we'd be blaming right now would be the 2 alleged scumbags who decided to shatter a girl's life.

Anonymous said...

Let this be a lesson to all parents to teach your kids to not drink and get drunk while attending college as it impairs judgement. If the "victim" were not drinking, maybe this would not have happened. Being intoxicated doesn't help the victim's case out at all and the alleged "rapists" will more than likely not be found guilty as we do not know what really happened just like the "victim" doesn't know.

What would firing Mason, Barta, Ferentz, and whoever else accomplish? Nothing. Just because some people have nothing but contempt for the athletics programs doesn't mean anything wrong has been done here. What if this happened within the Journalism Department? Would people be running around like chickens with their heads cut off, flailing their arms around and screaming, "Fire the head of the Journalism Department!" No, I don't think so. This is more like a witch hunt and disgruntled people are looking for a good reason to get someone they may not like fired. If you don't like it, get the Hell out of the U of Iowa.

With all this being said, this is certainly an unfortunate situation and possibly could have been prevented. Could have, should have, would have, it happened and the investigation was conducted as they saw fit. We will see what happens with this new investigation, but don't let this incident sway your opinion on how great the University is and its football program.

Anonymous said...

Let this be a lesson to all parents to teach your kids to not drink and get drunk while attending college as it impairs judgement. If the "victim" were not drinking, maybe this would not have happened....

WOW. The last comments are uncalled for and make us Iowans look not only heartless but stupid. If this happened at ANY other university would you have felt this way? Obviously you are letting your team bias influence your better judgement. NO ONE DESERVES TO BE RAPED. Drunk or sober NO means no. No matter what happens to anyone involved only the girl and her family will live with this event their whole life and be scarred from it forever. Instead of blaming her we should wait to see what happens with the investigation.

Shane - marshalltown said...

"WOW."

Didn't you know that only drunk girls get raped?

Anonymous said...

"WOW. The last comments are uncalled for and make us Iowans look not only heartless but stupid. If this happened at ANY other university would you have felt this way? Obviously you are letting your team bias influence your better judgement. NO ONE DESERVES TO BE RAPED. Drunk or sober NO means no. No matter what happens to anyone involved only the girl and her family will live with this event their whole life and be scarred from it forever. Instead of blaming her we should wait to see what happens with the investigation."



Yet another person that can't read between the lines. It's not anyone's fault that your mom's a whore.

shane - marshalltown said...

Quite the display of maturity and tact there! Nice job, what are you, 12??

Anonymous said...

Rape isn't funny!!!!

Unless of course it involves clowns.

Anonymous said...

Just WIN BABY ???
3 Years and counting and winning has made this go away ?? Sadly.. it is still un-settled. WHY ? Your blog from 2 years ago is still unanswered... but winning has Iowans forgetting.. the same Iowans credit for being compassionate people ? Ferentz still has unanswered questions... the media too needs to report this lack of injustice.... Things like this don't just go away.... ask a victim...