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Year in review: University of Iowa pays $6.5 million to end discrimination lawsuit in athletics

Now university has hired firm to review its personnel practices

Former Iowa field hockey Head Coach Tracey Griesbaum, left, and former Iowa Associate Athletics Director Jane Meyer listen to a question May 22 as they discuss their discrimination cases against the University of Iowa at the offices of Newkirk Zwagerman Law Firm in Des Moines. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Former Iowa field hockey Head Coach Tracey Griesbaum, left, and former Iowa Associate Athletics Director Jane Meyer listen to a question May 22 as they discuss their discrimination cases against the University of Iowa at the offices of Newkirk Zwagerman Law Firm in Des Moines. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

*This storyline was voted as one of the top storylines of 2017 by Gazette staff. Other top storylines include the ongoing debate about traffic cameras, the defunding of Planned Parenthood, and proposals for a new Cedar Rapids casino.

The University of Iowa announced May 19 it would pay $6.5 million to a former athletics administrator and former coach who asserted they had been discriminated against based on gender and sexual orientation.

This was after a Polk County jury awarded $1.43 million to Jane Meyer, a former UI associate athletics director who sued the university, the Iowa Board of Regents and the state, alleging discrimination against women in the athletic department.

Meyer said when she complained about the 2014 firing of her partner, Tracey Griesbaum, as field hockey head coach, Meyer was retaliated against and later fired.

The settlement included the jury award.

Tom Newkirk, an attorney for Meyer and Griesbaum, called the case a landmark.

The three-week trial in Des Moines included a parade of athletics department witnesses, including Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz and Head Wrestling Coach Tom Brands, giving a behind-the-scenes look at conflict in Division 1 college sports. Athletic Director Gary Barta, who fired Griesbaum after a former player alleged verbal abuse, was on the witness stand for parts of four days.

Following the verdict, some Hawkeye fans called for Barta to go, but UI President Bruce Harreld supported the athletic director.

The UI said in May it would hire an independent firm to conduct an external review of its employment practices, starting with athletics.

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Six months later, it announced it had hired one. Fredrikson & Byron P.A. of Des Moines will evaluate policies and practices related to hiring, promotion, documentation, compensation and termination of faculty and staff, according to the UI.

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