I just returned from the State Board of Regents’ special meeting in Iowa City Tuesday afternoon. Calling it tense would understate it.
“Dumbfounded” was a word Regents President David Miles used. It was his feeling about the Regents not getting the letter the mother of the alleged sexual assault victim of two former University of Iowa football players sent university officials last November. Miles called it “a serious breach of trust.” He also said the letter “should serve as the roadmap” of the new investigation.
That’s kind of strong stuff.
UI President Sally Miles said “The original thinking that federal law known as FERPA, designed to protect student privacy, prevented the letters from being shared with our Board of Regents leadership is just not tenable.”
The Regents – at least Miles and some of his peers – are clearly upset. Mason seemed chastened in her apolgetic address to the Regents.
In briefly speaking to reporters afterward, UI Athletics Director Gary Barta said how confident he was the reopened Regents investigation of the way this incident was handled will end up with the same conclusions as it did the first time, that all athletic department personnel involved followed policy and protocol thoroughly. After the investigation – and presumably the trials of the former Hawkeye players, Cedric Everson and Abe Satterfield – Barta said his and his employees’ sides of the stories may be told.
There was a nervous crackle in Barta’s voice, and understandably so. He has to wonder if he’s a potential “fall guy” in all this. You have to think someone’s at the university is going to get burned for this incredible public-relations mess.
But Mason may be the one on the hottest seat. If she (and whoever else she was consulting) really thought FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) was blocking the university from sharing the letter (and another sent this May) with the Regents, she should have checked again. And again. Had the Regents gotten the letters, they may very well have come up with the exact same finding as the one they completed last month. But they didn’t, and now the whole affair is a bubbling cauldron.
Not getting the letters “undermines our credibility,” Miles said.
“This board owes Iowans a complete account, and we will provide it.”
This thing could swing a lot of different ways. The only certainty is it isn’t going away for quite a while.