Guest opinion: Why I interrupted Sally Mason

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By Chelsea Bacon

In my backpack were several posters and two rings of duct tape: one black, one yellow. School Pride, you know? Outrage boiled over in the past few days, coming to a head over University of Iowa President Sally Mason’s ineffectual, inaccurate statements about rape. When asked by the Daily Iowan about the increase in reported sexual assaults this academic year, she 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 …”

Several students, alumni and members of the community swiftly organized a protest to take place at the then-upcoming “31st-annual Presidential Lecture” at the Levitt Center, knowing that the opportunity to have the press and administration present was a small window. We strategically decided on a silent protest in order to show solidarity for victims and survivors of sexual assault, who are too often silenced in our culture of rape. We laid out a “list of demands” that included policy measures and attitude shifts that we saw the University profoundly lacking, and we brought duct tape.

On Sunday, we gathered shortly before the start of the lecture with Iowa regalia and poignant, brazen signs that had slogans reading “zero tolerance for drugs but not rape?!” and “this University protects rapists, not victims,” and one that played on the problematic and controversial partnership between Anheuser-Busch and the University: “Rape Culture: Responsibility Matters.” Our fingers were numb but our blood was pumping.

Soon after an Iowa City Jazz Trio performance, President Mason approached the podium, giving us an opportunity to swarm the front of the stage and block her from view. She began a prepared statement that we quickly realized was meant to co-opt our message and use it without our consent. Never once were any organizers contacted by the administration, but they had a police officer ready to escort and threaten with arrest the “young women” out of the lecture.

None of us had prepared statements, but I heard the cloying voice of Mason tell me that she was asserting power over us, our message would not be broadcast. I ripped the yellow duct tape off my mouth and drowned out her voice with mine. “[Sally Mason] does not stand with victims!” She quickly retorted that she stood 100 percent with victims, but the horse was out of the gate. Soon, other organizers spoke out over the president and over their fear. “Sally Mason is part of the problem.” “This University is part of the problem.” “Rape is not in human nature.”

This university has a zero tolerance policy toward possession of illegal substances and plagiarism, but not toward sexual assault. I stumbled to get this point exclaimed, and was met with a blatant lie by President Mason “yes we do.” “No we DON’T,” I reasserted. We don’t.

The plain-clothes officer began to escort us out, stating, barely audibly, that we would be arrested if we continued to “disrupt a meeting.” We calmly walked out and were met with applause, and a elderly woman with tight curls giving us “thumbs up” and bravely shouting “I stand with you.”

The Sunday protest organizers are not mutually exclusive of the work University students have begun with the campaign and petition through Our efforts are comprised of students, faculty, staff and community members who have a common goal to hold the University responsible for its inaction and eliminate rape culture in our University and community. We stand with victims and survivors in this community and abroad, who are too often spoken over by the people in power. President Mason and her administration are going to need a lot more than duct tape to keep us quiet.

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10 thoughts on “Guest opinion: Why I interrupted Sally Mason

  1. I’m not an IC native but am intrigued by this story. Just wondering where there are examples of the university protecting rapists. I see that statement being made a lot but I’d be interested to read more specifically about how the university has protected them.

    I also disagree with those who deny rape as part of human nature. How can anything humans do be outside of the realm of our nature? Rape is millions of years old, how can our modern society expect to eradicate something entirely that is so complex and definitely a part of our lower, animalistic thought processes.

    Regardless, the entire discussion of “human nature” is simply a rhetorical argument and no matter how you feel about it’s nature, this rhetorical discussion will not change anything about the reality of rape.

  2. @Steve, there has been more than one case of student athletes at the University of Iowa being accused of rape, and the way that Sally Mason and University of Iowa Athletics has handled them has been terrible. The University seems like it cares more about its image than it does the victims.

    President Mason may well be sincere in her concern over sexual assault at the University, but her handling of these cases when they come up has not been forthright and pro-active. Above all a President’s job is to communicate the University’s mission clearly, and on this subject she has not, and said things in fact that range from hurtful to tepid to clueless. THAT is what this is about.

    As for rape being ‘human nature’ I don’t think you have science behind you. It is not an inescapable drive. It is a pathology of human behavior, and more than that it is an act of violence and power, that’s been used as a political tool.

  3. I keep hearing about these “cases” and student athletes but nothing tangible. Not saying you are wrong in your assertion that the university is protecting them, I’d just like to see some sort of primary source that can back that assertion up in some way.

    Also, I never said rape is an inescapable drive. I just said it’s is unreasonable to consider it outside the realm of human nature when humans basically invented it. Not to say someone thought up rape for the first time, but it is a product of our animal behavior as humans, a reflection of the creatures we used to be, creatures that could not or would not suppress their animal instincts for the higher ground of morality and mutual respect. I mean, how can you claim it as a “pathology of human behavior” yet deny that it is part of our nature? Is murder a part of human nature? Is theft? Is self-mutilation? Is suicide? I mean, is there a line in the sand somewhere and on one side are all things that are definitely “human nature” and the other side is…what, bad stuff that we don’t like to admit that humans do and therefore is definitely NOT part of our nature cause that would make us ALL bad? Just because humans have evolved to develop a consciousness doesn’t make us free from the dark, animal urges that have existed and driven the world forever.

    1. @Steve. there was a case not too far back that still sticks in my gut thinking of it. Two athletic students raped a girl and for over a year, even with the mother pleading to Sally Mason, nothing was done about it. Turns out the Athletic Department conveniently ‘ferred’….
      Here are a few links to that story:

  4. Does seem a little ironic to claim that Mason co-opted your message and used it without your consent when this protest co-opted an event she’d sponsored without–it sounds like–her consent.

  5. @Chas — the relationship between students and a University President is asymmetric. She has a platform that gives everything she says weight. Students don’t have that. If they have something to say, and feel as though it isn’t being taken seriously, a disruptive protest is a perfectly valid form of self-expression. Mason’s attempts to co-opt their message seemed less a change of her perception or policy, and more an attempt to defuse embarrassing publicity about her inadequate response to this issue.

  6. The lesbians who run the Univ. Iowa actually WANT girls to be raped. Why? It encourages them to hate men and join the liberated lesbian sisterhood. More meat for the mill, but first it helps if they are raped for their initiation. More sorry information about Iowa City’s homosexual mafia can be found in 8/9 segments of details I recently posted at Help for their criminal racket also comes from the Iowa “Supreme” Court which was the first to impose homosexual bogus marriage by judicial dictate. The “Supreme” Court doesn’t care who lives or dies, and helped cover up the Iowa City police shooting of Eric Shaw. The Iowa City police also dummied up the homo perversion behind the Steve Sueppel baseball bat murders of his own (sort of) family.

  7. This is so stupid. We don’t live in a rape culture. If I stood downtown on the pedmall and asked everyone walking by if they thought rape was okay, what would people say? Show me all these people who think rape is acceptable. There are plenty of spots around the world where rape and violence are a serious cultural problem. Iowa City is not one. Sorry.

    Sally Mason used poor language. And that alludes more to her not caring about students in general than it suggests she endorses rape. Chelsea Bacon was a part of a ridiculous charade and its just as silly she’s writing this.

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