IOWA CITY, Iowa – The University of Iowa is reassigning senior associate athletic director Jane Meyer, saying she cannot remain in the department while her partner sues the school for discrimination.
Meyer is the partner of former Iowa women's field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum, who is planning a lawsuit contending that she and other gay female coaches have faced bias based on gender and sexual orientation. Meyer had been the senior woman administrator, a role in which she is charged with ensuring women's programs are treated fairly, and oversaw the department's construction projects.
Athletic director Gary Barta said in a memo last week that keeping Meyer in the position she's held since 2001 "has presented many challenges" in recent months as the department prepares to defend against Griesbaum's claims. He wrote that an assistant attorney general advised that Meyer be reassigned "until these matters are resolved."
University spokesman Joe Brennan said Tuesday that Meyer remains in good standing and the transfer will not affect her $173,000 annual salary. He said the school is trying to "identify a new set of duties for her outside the athletics department" but doesn't know what those will be.
Griesbaum's attorney, Tom Newkirk, questioned whether the transfer was illegal retaliation. He said the reassignment puts pressure on Griesbaum to either drop her potential legal claims or to destroy her partner's career as an athletic administrator.
"It smacks of a plan to place pressure on Tracey to give up her fight," Newkirk said. "When they say Jane has to be out of the department until Tracey gets her situation resolved, what that means is Tracey either has to give up or Jane's got to stay out for what is effectively going to be two to four years. That's the average length of a dispute with the state of Iowa."
Attorney general's office spokesman Geoff Greenwood said he cannot comment on legal advice given to agencies.
The reassignment is the latest fallout from Barta's decision in August to fire Griesbaum, who had been a highly successful coach during her 14-year tenure. A university investigation ordered by Barta didn't substantiate any violations of university policy but raised concerns about a "team environment of fear, intimidation and/or mistreatment."
Griesbaum has denied allegations that she pressured athletes to play while injured, and dozens of current and former players have rallied to her defense. Her supporters say she is being unfairly depicted as mean and a bully — stereotypes about female coaches. Barta has denied allegations of bias, and the university has said Griesbaum's removal was out of concern for student-athletes.
Griesbaum and Meyer confirmed their 10-year relationship in interviews with The Associated Press last month. They said they didn't formally disclose it to Barta because Griesbaum didn't work in Meyer's chain of command, so no conflict of interest existed.