Students at the University of Iowa are protesting President Sally Mason’s bizarrely insensitive and seemingly uninformed comments about rape and sexual assault. In an interview with the Daily Iowan on Feb. 18 Mason said “The goal would be to end that, to never have another sexual assault. That’s probably not a realistic goal just given human nature … “ Sexual assault is human nature?
Five times in the Feb. 18 interview, Mason characterized sexual assault as a “bad thing” that “happens” to people, not once referring to the act of rape as a crime.
“when it comes to sexual assault and other kinds of bad things that can happen to people, you have to know more about it, we have to understand it, and I think what we’re seeing now is more people being willing to come forward and tell us when something bad happens.”
So, according to Mason, rape and sexual assault is just something bad that happens, implying that it is nobody’s fault. Further, she opines that we need to find a greater understanding about it. One wonders if she also thinks we need to find a better understanding of other types of crimes.
To be fair, the interviewer’s question was specifically about how the UI was educating people on the topic of sexual assault. So perhaps she didn’t really mean it like it sounded, but unfortunately the rest of her interview on this topic did nothing to indicate otherwise.
The implication that rape is “human nature” is not only incorrect but highly offensive and dangerous and frankly, a deplorable way for anyone to characterize a violent crime, particularly a university president who should definitely know better.
In response, students organized a respectably attended protest on the Pentacrest and a protest at Mason’s annual presidential lecture (see video and links below). The Daily Iowan is publishing every letter received on the topic.
A statement was released by Mason on Feb. 20. Notice how the rhetoric changed. The word crime appears twice in three short sentences.
“Sexual assault is a terrible crime, one for which there is no excuse. The UI will take all the actions in our power to prevent rapes, to support victims, and to prosecute offenders. Even one sexual assault in our community is too many, and we must confront this together as a community. I am committed to do everything in my power to end this terrible crime on our campus.”
That’s more like it. Not only is rape now a crime, it is a terrible crime. We’re making progress! Now may they follow this statement with policy to match.
Bravo UI students for banding together and speaking truth to power!
Click here to read the DI interview with Sally Mason
Click here to view coverage of the pentacrest protest
Click here to read letters to the Daily Iowan in response to Mason’s comments
Video of protest at Mason’s annual lecture on Feb. 24: