University of Iowa picks firm for employment review

Des Moines company to start with UI athletics after Meyer, Griesbaum settlement

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IOWA CITY — Six months after announcing plans to review its employment policies and practices in the wake of high-profile discrimination findings, the University of Iowa on Thursday announced it has chosen a firm to conduct the review.

The university on Nov. 6 signed an agreement with Fredrikson & Byron, P.A. to evaluate policies and practices related to hiring, promotion, documentation, compensation, and termination of both faculty and staff, according to a UI news release.

The review, according to UI officials, will start with the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics but also include academic and operational units and UI Health Care. The agreement is a one-year deal and won’t go beyond Nov. 2, 2018 unless amended.

It commits the university to pay Fredrikson & Byron no more than $95,000 — although that total does not include expenses for things like travel, meals, and lodging.

“Remaining steps will be negotiated upon the successful completion of the initial review,” according to the news release.

The contract for the initial review includes two steps. The first involves gathering background information for UI athletics. Over 20 to 30 days, according to the contract, the consultant will meet with a UI project work group to review goals; review organizational charts and reporting structures; analyze employee satisfaction surveys or other UI assessment instruments conducted in the last five years; and interview leadership in athletics and UI human resources.

The second step, which again is supposed to take 20 to 30 days, will involve an analysis of universitywide written employment policies concerning equitable treatment of protected classes of employees and also an analysis of policies specific to athletics.

The contract does not specifically mention a review of UI Health Care policies or practices, although UI officials said they would be included in the campuswide policy review.

In explaining the process of picking a firm, UI internal medicine professor Peter Snyder, who serves as president of the UI Faculty Senate and co-chair of a committee formed to select an employment review consultant, explained in a statement that “Determining the scope of the review and selecting the appropriate firm took time.”

“But the committee felt it was important to be thorough,” Snyder said in a statement.

Per the agreement, Fredrikson & Byron must submit written reports to Cheryl Reardon, UI chief human resources officer and associate vice president, and James Jorgensen, UI deputy counsel. Jorgensen is serving as project manager, and Fredrikson & Byron attorney Emily S. Pontius is serving as a point of contact for the contractor.

UI President Bruce Harreld announced on May 5 plans 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 for $6.5 million.

In emails following Harreld’s announcement, a student representative on the committee to hire the consulting firm urged the campus to include “student practices” in the employment review.

“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.

The committee decided to stick with a primary focus on faculty and staff. But Student Government President Jacob Simpson has told The Gazette he believes any changes resulting from the employment practices review would also affect student employees.

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

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