IOWA CITY — Hundreds of Twitter users over the past few days said they have been harassed by a University of Iowa student, and UI officials confirmed Tuesday they’re looking into the allegations.
“The University of Iowa does not condone sexual misconduct of any kind,” UI spokeswoman Jeneane Beck wrote The Gazette in an email, reiterating a comment the university posted on Twitter early Tuesday: “The university takes these allegations seriously and is working to learn more.”
Iowa law bars the university from providing details of an ongoing investigation, according to the statement the UI made in response to a student’s request on Twitter that others retweet her message “if you’ve been hit on” by the individual.
Beck said UI police have received two reports from the same person alleging online harassment by the man, who is enrolled in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
The man whose name appears in the tweets did not respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment. Online court records show he has not been charged in Iowa with a crime related to the two reports.
Because no legal action has been taken against the man, The Gazette is not naming him.
The UI redacted much of the information written in the two reports.
The first, filed Dec. 5 by an 18-year-old woman, said the man had stalked her for months in Slater Residence Hall. The report says the UI’s dean of students sent the man a formal letter barring him from contacting the woman.
The second report, filed by the same person April 27, accuses him of off-campus third-degree harassment April 14, using a computer. The heavily redacted report doesn’t show what police did with the complaint.
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As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, more than 1,300 people had retweeted the social media message about the man and 3,200 people had “liked” it. The tweet drew over 200 comments.
“He must be trynna break a record or something,” one person wrote.
Many of the women on Twitter reported receiving the same message from the same man. One person noted, “I think the better question would be ‘who hasn’t been hit on by this guy?’”
The UI Police Department wrote on Twitter late Monday that “we’re concerned to hear you’ve been receiving harassing messages from a fellow student. Please understand a tweet does not constitute a formal complaint.” It urged students to contact UI police.
Beck reiterated in her statement to The Gazette that, “Social media is a powerful tool for raising awareness, but we are limited in the actions we can take in response to anonymous reports.”
She urged those who “received harassing messages or unwanted contact report it to university officials and/or law enforcement to ensure prohibited behavior is addressed under university policies and/or criminal statutes.”
The allegations come amid national debate about sexual harassment and violence, along with a swelling #metoo movement from which sexual assault, harassment, and violence allegations have surfaced against high-powered men. Among them have been movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, news personalities Matt Lauer, Tom Brokaw and Charlie Rose, numerous politicians and comedic legend Bill Cosby.
Casino entrepreneur and Republican National Committee finance chairman Steve Wynn also came under the #metoo microscope for alleged sexual harassment and assault. The UI in January decided to scrub his name from its Institute for Vision Research.
The university had named the institute the UI Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research after Wynn in 2013 committed $25 million toward research for curing blindness.
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Beck provided more resources for reporting improper behaviors, as well as a guide on how to maintain a log of stalking-related incidents and behavior here: https://osmrc.uiowa.edu/victim-resources/report-problem.
Additional resources regarding online harassment can be accessed here: https://osc.uiowa.edu/managing-harassment And recommendations for maintaining privacy online here https://its.uiowa.edu/support/article/100785.
Individuals seeking confidential support can contact:
• RVAP (319-335-6000)
• University Counseling Service (319-335-7294)
• Women’s Resource and Action Center (319-335-1486)
Office of the Ombudsperson, (319-335-3608)
l Comments: (319) 339-3158; firstname.lastname@example.org