Audit: U. Iowa followed policy in harassment case
IOWA CITY – University of Iowa officials responded quickly to allegations against an athletics department official accused of improperly touching students and properly followed internal policies during the investigation, according to an audit report released Wednesday.
University auditors also found “no irregularities” in the hiring of Peter Gray in 2002 to supervise counseling and advising services for athletes despite his firing from another job in 1999 and allegations about improper behavior during his earlier employment at Iowa, according to the report.
University President Sally Mason ordered the review in November amid a firestorm that followed Gray’s resignation. An internal university report accused him of sexually harassing students and athletes through improper touching that included shoulder massages, hugging and rubbing – behavior that allegedly dated back to his earlier work at Iowa from 1993 to 1995.
That report also alleged that he had improper sexual photographs on his computer, including a screen saver of the men’s swimming team and two showing individuals engaged in sex acts with stuffed animals or toys, and had traded complementary football tickets to someone outside the university for nude photos. A superior had counseled Gray about his behavior, but it continued despite complaints from colleagues, coaches and at least one athlete, the report said. Gray acknowledged some touching but denied grabbing a student’s genitals or buttocks.
Mason had apologized to those affected and ordered the audit and separate reviews of hiring and management policies. Gray’s supervisor, longtime athletics department official Fred Mims, was stripped of his management duties, and the department reorganized a unit that oversaw student services and compliance with NCAA rules into separate divisions.
The report by the school’s Office of Internal Audit was released Wednesday at a meeting of the Iowa Board of Regents in West Des Moines. It found that the university provost’s office was made aware Sept. 25 about allegations against Gray, and the school’s sexual misconduct response coordinator was immediately notified. Within a week, a formal complaint was filed and a joint investigation by the Equal Opportunity and Diversity office and human resources officials was launched. Gray was placed on paid leave Oct. 8.
The investigation report concluding that Gray violated university’s sexual harassment policies was issued Oct. 24, far ahead of an internal guideline for completing written findings within 45 days. Gray resigned days later.
The audit appears to undercut earlier criticism by Board of Regents President Craig Lang that the university moved slowly and failed to implement sexual harassment training for employees ordered in 2008 after a sexual assault scandal involving football players. Auditors found that all athletics department employees had received the training as of Nov. 30, weeks after the scandal broke, compared with a university-wide rate of 82 percent.
Mason told reporters that she appreciated the auditors’ work and that she would aim to ensure that all university employees had the training.
Lang did not attend Wednesday’s meeting, but he said in an email Monday that the report was only “a start and we will request more information.” Regents did not ask the chief auditor, Todd Stewart, any questions after he presented a brief summary of the report.