You Looking at Me?

Parsing Sally Mason, we discover -- lo! -- reheated leftovers of Oprah, Marian Edelman, and SNL.  There's only one other person on campus who issues more cliches more fluently than this woman.   Fortunately, we are wired into her panicked, committee-addled brain.  Truth to follow.

"Thank you for the opportunity to address you today on this important matter. [Look nervous; they need to see contrition.]  Let me begin by expressing my profound and sincere regret for the failure to notify you of the letters that came to the University of Iowa [why would I say, "the letters I received" -- that would mean I received and read letters about the matter at hand, prior to suppressing them -- better to make it a strange external process implicating the entire university?] from the mother of the UI student who reported being sexually assaulted [I'm winking and nodding] last fall in Hillcrest Residence Hall. [I will grovel, but strangely not take personal responsibility for what happened to a letter addressed to me.  Will they notice I didn't say "my failure to notify ..."] I apologize for this error [mistakes were made!  didn't someone say that recently?] and for not making certain that the board had access to all information relevant to this case [look, I'm running a small city here, I can't possibly manage all aspects of something as abstruse as 'access'].  

"The original thinking [notice, I didn't say, 'My original thinking'] [Mistakes were made!] that federal law known as FERPA, designed to protect student privacy, prevented the letters from being shared with our Board of Regents leadership is just not tenable.  [Okay, fine, you were right and I was wrong and BFD.  I'll blame Mills for writing the memo I demanded.]  [I'd really like credit for rejecting my own excuse.  Is this possible?  Maybe, but talk faster.] There is no excuse for the [I'm so good at not using the personal possessive pronoun, aren't I?  No one will notice.  I have a Master's Degree ... in Science!]   failure to turn over those letters as part of the investigation that you directed the Board of Regents office to conduct in the wake of the report of the assault.  [I've been lying to you since last fall, and if I continue to use these therapeutic phrases, you'll be too punk to fire my ass.  One more reason to wear a pants suit.]

"I will make it clear to all members of my administration [Don't look at me!  How dare you!  I will punish the wrongdoers, sure, that's it, other people set us all up.] that our obligation to maintain the privacy of student records should never be interpreted as preventing us from sharing information that you request in pursuit of your governance responsibilities. [We try ... so hard ... to protect the innocent.  Well, I guess sometimes we can try too hard.  We'll just have to be meaner and more compliant with your demands, as unreasonable as they may be -- and as destructive of ... THE CHILDREN!.]

"To ensure that you are able to pursue those responsibilities in this particular case, I welcome any additional process that you wish to set in motion. [I'm concluding.  Of course I am groveling again.]  You will have the full cooperation of the UI faculty, staff and administrators. [I'd prefer you not ask me why it was not forthcoming, before.]  I trust that your further review will show that those involved in this case at the UI worked hard to follow the established policies and procedures under very difficult circumstances. [My job is so hard.  Have you read that policies and procedures document?  It gave me a headache, and, somewhere in there, I think I realized it was a completely stupid thing to be reading.  When someone breaks the law, hey, how about we just call the cops?  Scratch that thought.]  I welcome and look forward to insight that will provide opportunities to improve our policies, processes, and the execution of both.  [Look, this is all about procedure and protocol.  Calm down.  We'll appoint another committee to write another incomprehensible manual, and the peanut gallery will go silent.]

"Once you have completed your work on this case, I intend to engage independent outside expertise to examine our overall handling of all sexual assault cases. [When in doubt, externalize-by-blue-ribbon-committee.]  [Note, you bozos, I haven't taken personal responsibility for ANYTHING yet.  And you're about to endorse another committee solution!]  The results will be informed by best practices [this would be strategy consulting jargon from, say, 1996? These guys truly have no clue.  I wrote this cynical screed while in line at the drive-thru this morning.] in higher education, and the expert and his or her findings will be shared with the board. [Sharing: good.  We share.  None of this personal responsibility stuff.  We are the world ...  We are the future ... ]  We must, and we will, demonstrate that we continue to be an institution with integrity and with an abhorrence to violence. [What's that about saying, "I am not a crook"?]  ["... with an abhorrence to violence"???? Do I really write this badly?]  [Have to be careful here.  I just asked to be let off the hook because ... I abhor violence.  Pretty low bar.]  While we can hope that we will never again have to deal with such tragic and horrific cases, hard experience teaches us that we must be prepared.  [My job is tragically difficult and undervalued.  I would like some sympathy now.  I am a woman executive and don't you go picking on me.  I offer the steely realism of a veteran naval commander, long at sea.]

"Finally, I offer my heartfelt sympathy to the young woman and her family for the stress, the trauma, and the sense of abandonment that they have expressed. [Their expression, frankly, is meaningless to me.  That's why I ignored them until the Press-Citizen forced me to deal with this, and created havoc with my Board.  But I have to sound the compassionate alarm.  It's expected.]  From my observations of this situation throughout [I am a distant but truly sage observer, not involved really, so don't be getting too inquisitorial with me], I can say, honestly and sincerely [as opposed to 'honestly and insincerely', God, you'd think one of these guys would realize I haven't said anything sincere in 20 minutes, and as a result, just start laughing][BTW, I am still qualified to be president because I 'abhor violence ... honestly and sincerely!'], that many people tried very, very hard to help and be helpful. Good intentions, and even good actions, cannot, however, make up for what has happened.  [You don't now how hard it is to do the right thing.  I'm tearing up.]

"Let me close again with my apology for the failure [Good!  I'm all the way through this thing without saying 'my failure' and ... no one's noticed!]  to provide this information to the board."

Unless otherwise expressly indicated by BHGP editors, this FanPost is strictly the viewpoint of the author and is not endorsed by BHGP in any way.

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