(AP) University of Iowa President Sally Mason apologized Friday for the school's failure to protect athletes and employees in its handling of a former athletics department official accused of sexual harassment for years.
Mason issued the apology and outlined personnel changes after she completed an inquiry into the case of Peter V. Gray, who resigned last week after working as associate director of athletics student services since 2002.
Our ultimate role as a university is to protect our students, faculty, and staff, she said. The University of Iowa owes an apology to everyone affected by this avoidable incident. We cannot afford to allow even an isolated breakdown in our system to compromise that fundamental commitment.
The Iowa City Press-Citizen published an internal report last week that accused Gray, 59, of violating the school's sexual harassment policy through improper touching that included shoulder massages, hugging and rubbing of athletes. The report quoted employees as saying the behavior dated back to Gray's earlier employment at Iowa from 1993 to 1995 and continued despite complaints from colleagues, coaches and at least one athlete. Gray acknowledged some of the touching but denied grabbing a student's genitals or buttocks.
The report also found that Gray had traded football tickets for nude photographs with someone outside the university and had inappropriate photographs on his work computer, including a screen saver of the men's swimming team and two showing individuals engaged in sex acts with stuffed animals or toys. University police are not investigating Gray, who has stayed out of public view since the allegations surfaced and not returned messages for comment.
The case raised questions about why Gray was rehired in 2002, what prompted the university to take action now and whether earlier complaints were effectively addressed. The way it became public through a leak of the confidential report to the newspaper also suggests the university tried to keep the episode quiet. Athletics Director Gary Barta had told reporters previously that Gray resigned for personal reasons.
Mason's statement did not address those questions. Instead, she said she was confident the school has developed remedies addressing the breakdowns that occurred. Mason also singled out Barta for praise in helping her understand the facts of Gray's employment.
The actions outlined by Mason suggest she found flaws in the way Gray's background was vetted and how he and others were supervised in the athletics department. Records released this week show that Gray had been fired from Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., in 1999 for poor performance and had held jobs at several other schools.
Gray oversaw the university's advising and counseling program for student-athletes, whom he had daily contact with for years at the Gerdin Athletic Learning Center.
Mason said these next steps will occur:
The university will review all hiring processes, starting with the athletics department, to ensure best practices in vetting job applicants.
The university will require supervisors of student-athlete advising services to report to the provost and athletic director for two years. Gray had reported to the associate director of athletics for student services and compliance. The internal report said Gray's supervisor, who was not named, had repeatedly admonished him for his inappropriate behavior but it continued.
An internal audit will examine the operations of student-athlete advising services and compliance.
Individuals who advise student-athletes will be required to take additional sexual harassment training, beyond what is already required.
The statement said the university would not discuss disciplinary actions taken against employees involved.
The case has received widespread public attention, in part because it comes in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault scandal at Penn State University. Mason chairs the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, and she criticized Penn State's failures in the case and announced the conference's sanctions against the school in July.
Iowa Board of Regents President Craig Lang issued a statement Friday praising Mason for her handling of the Gray case.
Her deep concern for the safety of students, faculty and staff, and her solid determination to identify answers and address the specific findings of this case will lead the University to the necessary conclusions, he said. It is paramount to ensure the safety of the UI campus.