Students at the University of Iowa called for the school to take a harsher stance against sexual assault, during an on-campus listening session with university officials Thursday. Female students discussed fears of walking home in the dark, or difficulties filing reports against perpetrators. Others drew comparisons between the university’s formal zero-tolerance policies on drugs and plagiarism, but not for sexual assault.
President Sally Mason used her opening remarks to discuss her own experience with sexual assault, as an undergraduate student in Kentucky.
“An individual in a trench coat grabbed me, grabbed my breast, and I was fortunate that I was able to get away from him,” Mason said. “And the truly sad thing was, in 1970 I had no clue what to do. “
During the 90-minute listening session, students voiced concerns about the university’s response to reports of sexual assault.
“The University tells me they are not able to tell me if I move out of University housing,” one woman said. “Being interviewed, the Dean asked me what I was wearing the night I was sexually assaulted.”
There have been eight ‘Timely Reports’ of sexual assaults issued so far this academic year at the University of Iowa, and three have occurred in residence halls.
“The University explains that with these Timely Warnings, more people are coming forward,” the student continued. “And that sexual assaults happen nationwide, which is not the point.”
Last week, President Mason sparked outrage and a petition during an interview with a student newspaper. In the article, Mason said ending sexual assault was a goal of the university, but not likely, given human nature. She has since apologized for her remarks, but is scheduled to discuss them during a special meeting of the Board of Regents on Friday.
“I will convey to them the things we’re doing on campus, as well as the results of the conversations today. We’ve heard some positive things, but we’ve also heard ways we can make great improvements,” Mason told reporters after the forum.