University of Iowa employment review not started, five months after announcement

Firms being evaluated to examine practices following $6.5M bias settlement

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IOWA CITY — Five months have passed since the University of Iowa announced plans to review its employment practices after losing a high-profile discrimination case against its athletics department, but the institution has not yet hired a firm to conduct the review.

The university did not respond to specific questions about why the process has taken so long, or how soon a 14-member committee plans to make a selection to get the review started. Its request seeking qualified firms went out July 20 and responses were due two months ago.

“The University of Iowa’s Employment Practices Committee is in the evaluation phase,” a statement said.

UI President Bruce Harreld announced plans May 5 to hire a firm to conduct the review, one day after a Polk County jury found in favor of Jane Meyer, 57, a former UI associate athletics director who said the UI discriminated against her based on gender and sexual orientation.

Meyer’s longtime partner, former UI head field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum, also 57, sued on similar grounds. After the jury awarded Meyer $1.43 million, the university settled both cases to for $6.5 million.

The employment practices review seeks to examine not only the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics — although that department is first — but also the academic and operational units and Health Care.

A student representative on the committee told the group’s leadership he feels “quite strongly that student practices ought to be included” in the scope, according to emails provided through an open records request.

“If our goals are to review the UI employment processes, it seems a little disingenuous to suggest a review of only a portion of UI employment processes,” Titus Hou, a Student Government executive assistant, wrote in a June 20 email.

Student Government President Jacob Simpson also messaged the committee leaders “about student employment.”

Simpson told The Gazette the group concluded the review would relate primarily to faculty and staff. He noted any changes coming from it likely would affect student employees, “even if students aren’t directly within the scope.”

The process of pulling together a committee to pick a firm began in early May — even before the university announced its settlement with Meyer and Griesbaum. By May 23, Harreld had a list of 22 willing participants.

Committee leadership — including Peter Snyder, internal medicine professor and UI Faculty Senate president, and Erin Brothers, senior sponsored research specialist and past UI Staff Council president — picked the members “to ensure that the administration was not choosing the participants,” according to an email from a university official.

But progress thereafter was slow. Committee leaders said the hope was “to have the RFQ out the door by the end of June” but that didn’t happen.

Bare-bones drafts started circulating June 15, but a first committee meeting didn’t happen until June 20, and a more complete draft didn’t circulate until June 30. Eventually a final version was sent July 20.

In a phone interview, student committee member Hou said the biggest challenge has been coordinating schedules.

“Nobody has been dragging their feet on this,” he said. “Everyone understands the importance of the work that we’re doing.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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