Newstrack: Investigation of gender equity in University of Iowa Athletics expands

Office of Civil Rights site visit set for April

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IOWA CITY — Four University of Iowa field hockey players filed a federal civil rights complaint against the UI Jan. 28, 2015, alleging their federal rights to gender equity were violated when the UI fired coach Tracey Griesbaum in August 2014.

The student athletes said the university investigates complaints of male and female student athletes differently and holds female coaches to a higher standard.

The U.S. Department of Education oversees Title IX, the 1972 federal law that requires gender equity in educational programs that receive federal funding.

The department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) notified the UI in June the agency would investigate whether the university looked into concerns from students that gender bias played a role in Griesbaum’s firing.

What’s happened since

A second OCR complaint was filed against the UI Sept. 2 alleging the UI fails to provide equal athletic opportunities to men and women in 13 areas, including facilities, practice times and travel budgets, according to emails released by the UI last week.

The new complaint has sparked a wide-ranging probe of UI athletics that will include a site visit the week of April 11.

During the visit, the OCR has asked to interview the athletic director, sports information director, head trainer, all head coaches and a group of athletes from each of the UI’s 24 teams. Federal officials also will tour athletic facilities and review equipment and supplies, according to a Jan. 20 email from Salina Gamboa, a civil rights investigator with the agency.

The site visit is not open to the public, OCR officials told the UI.

The OCR has refused to release the 29-page complaint to the UI, despite the university filing a federal information request.

“The release of this information could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings related to the OCR’s investigation of the complaint,” the office wrote in a Nov. 17 letter to the UI.

The UI sent the OCR in December a flash drive with responses to 41 areas of inquiry by the OCR. These related to everything from team lists and budgets to research the UI has done on interest in new sports.

If the OCR finds Title IX violations, it has the authority to require schools take corrective actions that could include providing additional training, revising policies, redistributing scholarships or shifting spending.

Schools that don’t act risk losing federal funding.

Also related to gender equity in the UI Athletic Department is a November lawsuit filed by a former associate athletics director.

Jane Meyer, who worked in the UI Athletics Department from 2001 until December, claims in the suit filed in Polk County District Court the UI improperly paid her $70,000 less than a male counterpart and stripped Meyer of her duties when she complained about Griesbaum’s firing.

Meyer is Griesbaum’s longtime partner.

The UI petitioned the court to change the venue of the case to Johnson County, but that motion was denied Jan. 23. A trial-scheduling conference is set for March 15.

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