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Iowa regents head blasts U. Iowa for ‘breakdowns’

IOWA CITY (AP) — The University of Iowa failed to fully implement a 2008 policy meant to improve responses to sexual misconduct, a problem exposed by its mishandling of an ex-athletics department counselor accused of improperly touching students for years, the leader of its governing board said Wednesday.

Iowa Board of Regents President Craig Lang noted that the regents passed a major overhaul of sexual misconduct policies and procedures in 2008, in response to a high-profile sexual assault case involving two Iowa football players.

But he said it has become clear that the University of Iowa did not fully follow through with a policy requiring employees to be trained to quickly respond to such allegations in light of the case of Peter Gray, who resigned last month after an internal report accused him of sexual harassment.

The report said that Gray had improperly hugged, massaged and touched students for years in ways that made them feel uncomfortable. It said an investigation also found that he had improper sexual photos on his work computer and had traded football tickets with someone outside the university in exchange for nude photographs.

According to the report, Gray’s conduct was known before his rehiring in 2002 from his earlier employment at Iowa from 1993 to 1995. Critics have questioned how Gray was vetted and why he wasn’t let go sooner.

Lang, talking during the regents’ telephone meeting Wednesday, used his time during the call to scold the university for what he said was an “obvious breakdowns in the process.” He said the board was anxious for answers about how the Gray case was handled, but that it was clear “the University of Iowa is not doing a good enough job in this area.”

After the meeting, Lang kept up the criticism during a press briefing with reporters. He said it has become clear that some university employees failed to take the annual training they were supposed to receive under the 2008 policy.

“There was a failure in the implementation of the policy we have now,” he said. “A firm, quick action needs to happen in those kinds of situations.”

Lang’s criticism was far more pointed than it has been since the scandal broke last month. Until now, he has largely avoided criticism and expressed confidence in University of Iowa President Sally Mason. But his comments were just the latest fallout in the scandal.

Mason has ordered an internal audit to look into what happened, and university spokesman Tom Moore said Wednesday she was just as anxious as Lang to get answers. Mason has already apologized for what she called breakdowns in the case that undercut the school’s mission to protect students.

Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta last week stripped key duties from longtime associate athletic director Fred Mims, who was in charge of supervising Gray. Mims was reassigned to a non-supervisory role, and Barta announced plans to split the areas of compliance and student services that Mims oversaw into two separate units.

Barta has said that the results of the audit would be ready early next year. But Lang warned Wednesday that he did not want to wait until the board’s meeting in February to get an update.

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