Presidential committee discusses equity

BY CINDY GARCIA | MARCH 11, 2015 5:00 AM

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On Tuesday, the University of Iowa Presidential Committee on Athletics discussed the accusations and concerns expressed about the UI Athletics Department.

Controversy ensued when then-Hawkeye field-hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum was fired. In February, four Iowa field-hockey players who were on the 2014-15 team filed a Title IX gender-discrimination complaint against the university.

Title IX requires educational programs receiving federal financial assistance to not exclude on the basis of sex or subject to discrimination in any program or activity.

Jeffrey Cox, the head of the Athletics Committee, stressed that the panel had relatively little authority to address the issue, and its only option was to talk to UI President Sally Mason about the issue.

“I want to say, I have had nothing but forthcoming conversations with Gary [Barta] and the Athletics Department,” he said.

Many committee members pointed out that the equity subcommittee, which monitors the UI’s compliance with Title IX, was the entity most equipped to deal with issues raised by the incident. It also provided a report for the meeting.

Regarding the equity subcommittee’s report, Rachel Williams, a UI associate professor of women’s studies, described reading about an alleged “erosion of women’s athletics at Iowa.”

The Title IX’s complaint’s argument is the female coaches and players are treated differently because of their sex in the department.

In the complaint, the players said Griesbaum was treated unfairly because she was fired for using methods similar to those used by male coaches, but male coaches face no ramifications for their behavior.

The players also pointed out the incongruent ways female and male athlete complaints were investigated and addressed.

Athletics Director Gary Barta said he couldn’t discuss the complaint, citing legal concerns.
However, during the meeting, he defended the department and its methods.

He said the firing of Griesbaum was externally reviewed, as was the 2011 football-training incident, which left 13 football players hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis.

Barta also cited exit interviews and annual evaluations as safeguards against wrongdoing or negativity in the sports programs. He was open to suggestions about improvements for women’s athletics, he said, but “not at the expense of men’s teams.”

He said several times throughout the meeting how deeply the Athletics Department cares about its athletes and his confidence that “the vast majority of our students and coaches love being here.”

Some at the meeting believed that the news media were not fairly presenting the issue, and many members thought much broader problems were experienced throughout the nation, not just at Iowa.

Women’s head tennis coach Katie Dougherty said her experience at Iowa has been positive but no one has asked.

“I feel like I’ve had the support of Gary,” she said. “For me, it’s frustrating to have our athletics program portrayed that way when it’s not necessarily true.”

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