In an interview Monday, University of Iowa president Bruce Harreld shared what amounts to an ultimatum: improve security around the rivalry football game against Iowa State or stop scheduling it.
“I’m not convinced at all that we should play this game again — here or there or anywhere — unless we can protect our fans, our band, and of course our athletes,” Harreld told The Daily Iowan campus newspaper.
Herrald's comments came more than a week removed from Iowa's trip to Ames, during which members of the Iowa marching band were shoved, sexually groped and pelted with objects as they attempted to return to their bus, according to their own accounts. Since then, further controversy emerged when the athletic directors of both schools issued a joint statement Friday that investigation into the allegations of abuse had been closed. That's when band members took to social media to share their experiences. Iowa then announced that it was reopening its investigation.
Harreld said he has reached out to ISU president Wendy Wintersteen as well as University of Northern Iowa president Mark Nook about having conversations with athletic directors, band directors, and campus security and safety officials to prevent such alleged harassment from happening again. He said details need to be discussed regarding the size and type of security forces needed, where the band's bus should park and what tunnel band members should use, "and I think we need to put it on paper."
The leaders are open to such discussions, Harreld said, adding that he anticipates this would take several meetings to examine.
“We’ll learn more through the investigation that’s continuing, we’ll get more facts, and we’ll also get more attention because everybody’s pretty busy during the football season,” Harreld said. “So my guess is some time in January we’ll sit down. But I will say I also fight myself on that. As I see this go more and more intense, maybe we should do it sooner rather than later. I don’t know, we haven’t really nailed that down yet. I just don’t want to have it too soon and we don’t have all the facts, and also too soon when we’re all busy so we tend to gloss over it.”
What band members perceived as Iowa's insufficient response in the immediate wake of their allegations left many of them frustrated.
"I think there’s a lot to document here and I think we need to have a series of conversations, and when we get there — if we get there — then I think I’ll consider playing this game again," Harreld said. "But I’m not going to put our band or our students or our athletes in harm’s way. Something happened, and it isn’t right and we can all do better. I’m not just talking about in Ames; I’m talking about Iowa City, too. It works both ways. We can all improve. We should take this opportunity to improve."