First day back, Iowa universities share work toward inclusion, safety

'We begin the fall semester recharged, ready to listen and lead'

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IOWA CITY — At the close of the last University of Iowa school year, the community was astounded by a widely-publicized hate-crime report that turned out to be false — but nonetheless raised questions about student safety.

On the first day of fall classes Monday, administrators said they have spent time since then focusing on improving issues of safety, inclusion and diversity.

“The time allowed us to delve more deeply into the topics of diversity and inclusion, encouraging meaningful discussions about the challenges we face and the steps we can take together,” said a campus message delivered Monday.

“We begin the fall semester recharged, ready to listen and lead,” according to the message signed by 12 administrators and student leaders, including UI President Bruce Harreld.

The group is advancing several projects to improve the campus climate, including creating a process for responding to and addressing incidents of bias.

“This fall we will announce a centralized resource to address student concerns about racism, sexism, and other forms of injustice while protecting the tenets of free speech and academic freedom,” the group said.

The UI Department of Public Safety also is implementing “fair and impartial police training” and is establishing a protocol for handling student reports of off-campus incidents.

In May, the university came under fire for turning away student Marcus Owens when he went to its police department to report a hate crime.

UI police sent Owens to the Iowa City police after learning the incident he was reporting occurred off campus.

Critics slammed the institution for not taking more information from Owens before turning him away and not notifying the campus about a possible hate crime.

Iowa City police eventually discounted Owens’ story, and he recanted.

But critics maintained concerns with the UI’s handling of the case.

UI leaders said Monday the new protocol for off-campus incidents provides “additional responsiveness to students while remaining aligned with the best-practice standards of trauma-informed response.”

Facing an anticipated record-breaking freshman class of nearly 5,700, the group listed other initiatives this fall aimed at improving the culture.

Administrators and student leaders have worked together to add campus tours to orientation programming for international students, expand fee nighttime ride services to men as well as women, implement implicit bias training for new faculty and assign officers to serve as liaisons to student groups.

Among other initiatives, the UI is launching a “Down Vote Hate” campaign on Yik Yak, a social media network that allows anonymity.

The Iowa City campus isn’t alone in efforts to foster an inclusive culture. Iowa State University President Steven Leath reminded his campus Monday of ongoing efforts to foster a “more inclusive, respectful, and accepting campus.”

“Recent hate crimes and racial violence across the country and the world, as well as incidents of racism and bigotry on college campuses including ours, have caused many to feel frightened and angry,” he wrote. “I want you to know that your fears and frustrations are important to me and to the university community.”

Leath said he’s reintroducing the “principles of the Iowa State community” first drafted by student leaders in 2006.

Those principles include respect, purpose, cooperation, richness of diversity, freedom from discrimination and honest and respectful expression of ideas.

The university also over the summer clarified its policy on free expression “to quell the inaccurate notion that Iowa State confines free expression to two ‘free speech zones.’ ”

The national Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has labeled ISU a “red” speech zone for having at least one policy that “clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.”

“Free expression has always been welcome and encouraged throughout campus,” Leath said.

ISU also is expecting enrollment growth this fall with projections topping 36,500, which would be the eighth-straight record-breaking year.

The day they were born …

Here are some facts from the year many of this fall’s new university freshmen were born — 1998:

An average house cost $129,300.

A pound of bacon cost $2.53.

Top movies included Saving Private Ryan, The Big Lebowski, and Armageddon.

Top songs included “The Boy is Mine,” by Brandy and Monica, “You’re Still the One,” by Shania Twain, and “Too Close,” by Next.

Most popular boy baby names were Michael, Jacob, and Matthew.

Most popular girl baby names were Emily, Hannah, and Samantha.

Bill Clinton in 1998 denied he had “sexual relations” with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

The FDA approved Viagra for treatment of male impotence.

Apple unveils the iMac.

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