Education

Feds continue gender equity probe of University of Iowa athletics

Latest letter requests fall review of recruiting, equipment, housing, dining

University of Iowa field hockey players (from left) Dani Hemeon, Natalie Cafone, Chandler Ackers and Jessy Silfer filed a federal civil rights complaint against the University of Iowa in 2015 that the U.S. Department of Education has been investigating. Investigators wrote the UI in July saying it will be following up with coaches and student athletes this fall about equal treatment in equipment, supplies, recruiting, housing and dining. (Submitted photo)
University of Iowa field hockey players (from left) Dani Hemeon, Natalie Cafone, Chandler Ackers and Jessy Silfer filed a federal civil rights complaint against the University of Iowa in 2015 that the U.S. Department of Education has been investigating. Investigators wrote the UI in July saying it will be following up with coaches and student athletes this fall about equal treatment in equipment, supplies, recruiting, housing and dining. (Submitted photo)

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights will continue to monitor the University of Iowa Athletics Department for gender equity concerns raised by female student athletes in 2015.

The office sent a letter to the UI on July 13 saying it “determined it is necessary” to follow up with coaches and student athletes in the fall about equal treatment in equipment and supplies, recruiting and housing and dining — three of the 13 categories included in the 2015 complaint filed by four field hockey players.

“During OCR’s initial investigation, concerns were identified with respect to equipment and supplies as they pertained to women’s basketball, women’s track and women’s field hockey,” the letter states.

Among other concerns, “the women’s cross-country team indicated that shoes are withheld from student athletes who are ‘not contributing’ and that they did not get winter gear, and women’s basketball noted that they could not get equipment and supplies replaced,” the letter added.

The UI reported to the Office of Civil Rights in April the average equipment and supplies cost per student-athlete for the six sports that have teams for both genders was $391 higher for men than women.

The UI explained the disparity by saying men’s gymnastics was required to buy pommel horses, not used in women’s gymnastics, and that there were more female runners, which lowered the per-student athlete average.

When the UI followed up with coaches and student athletes after the initial review, several said they still needed more gear.

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On the recruiting front, the 2016-17 recruiting budget for men’s sports was $875,571, compared to $725,558 for women’s sports.

“The university asserted all teams had their needs met, as only four of the women’s programs spent their full allotment from their recruiting budget and no requests for additional resources were denied,” the OCR noted in the July 13 letter.

Men’s teams had 152 official visits from prospective student athletes and took 424 recruiting trips, while women’s teams had 103 official visits and took 357 recruiting trips, the UI reported. Fifty courtesy cars were provided for recruiting, 27 for men and 23 for women. Football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and volleyball had access to charter flights for recruiting trips.

One of the initial complaints about housing disparities concerned UI football players staying in a hotel the night before home games.

The UI told the Office of Civil Rights that pregame hotel stays are made available to all teams, but in 2016-17, only football took advantage of the option to “ensure players are not disturbed by the large number of fans coming to town, that players remain under the supervision of coaches and that all players arrive at the stadium together,” the OCR noted in its report.

The UI said in January the office’s investigation was over when the university signed a voluntary resolution with the federal government. That resolution noted there was insufficient evidence to show the UI favored male student athletes in six categories, including coaching, scheduling of games and practice and travel.

However, the Office of Civil Rights said the UI still had to prove it was fair in other categories, which triggered UI reports in April and June.

The July 13 OCR letter says investigators will arrange follow up interviews with coaches and student athletes in the fall to talk more about recruiting, equipment and supplies and housing and dining.

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The OCR has not yet responded to the UI’s report on locker rooms and practice/competition facilities, UI Spokeswoman Jeneane Beck said.

“The University will work with the OCR to obtain whatever additional information is requested,” she said Thursday.

l Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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