Jane Meyer walks up the stairs at the Polk County Courthouse Wednesday during the third day of her trial against the University of Iowa. Meyer took the stand Wednesday afternoon. (The Daily Iowan/Blake Dowson)

Jane Meyer trial continues on third day

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By Blake Dowson

blake-dowson@uiowa.edu

DES MOINES — Kevin Ward, vice president of Human Resources at the University of Iowa, noticeably hoarse from his three hours on the stand on Tuesday, was back on the stand Wednesday morning answering questions about Jane Meyer’s transfer and subsequent termination from the university between 2014-16.

Meyer, sitting not 20 feet away from Ward as he described the protocol behind her termination, was stoic, keeping her eyes on Ward the entire time.

Both Thomas Newkirk, representing Meyer, and George Carroll, representing the UI, spent much of their time hashing out the timeline surrounding the memo Meyer sent to Iowa Director of Athletics Gary Barta on her concerns about gender discrimination within the Athletics Department. Meyer, who sent the memo on Dec. 4, 2014, was notified she was being transferred out of the department the following day.

View a timeline of events here

Newkirk touched upon Meyer’s exemplary performance as the senior associate athletic director. In Meyer’s 13 years holding that position from 2001-14, she received only one negative performance review from Barta. That was her final one, which occurred in October of 2014, only a few months after Meyer’s partner, head field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum, had been the focus of an abuse investigation within the Athletic Department and subsequently fired in August, although there was no policy violation found upon review.

Newkirk grilled Ward on the investigation into the field hockey program regarding the decision to do it internally instead of bringing in a third party, and the findings of the investigation.

To the question of whether bringing in a third party was considered, Ward said yes. To any other question regarding the findings of the investigation, he simply answered in some variation of, “I don’t have a clear recollection.”

Ward said he did not recall hearing anything suggesting Barta wanted to transfer Meyer to avoid bringing in a third party to investigate Griesbaum.

Carroll, attempting to show Barta had raised concerns about Meyer’s performance before the gender discrimination memo was sent, presented hand-written notes from Barta from a meeting between he and Ward held on Nov. 8, 2014. Among a list of concerns, Barta cited communication issues and a poor attitude from Meyer.

Meyer was transferred to head the flood recovery project at the UI and was terminated on the day the university determined the recovery project was complete with the move into the new Voxman Music Building.

Ward noted that the “College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was very grateful for [Meyer’s] assistance,” in helping the move go smoothly, but that the conditions of her immediate termination after the project was complete “were extraordinary circumstances.”

He also noted that Meyer’s termination was “part of the nature of being an at-will employee.”

Ward remained on the stand through the other side of the court’s morning recess, until Newkirk called expert witness Laura Burton to the stand.

Burton, an associate professor at the University of Connecticut that specializes in leadership in sports organizations and gender stereotypes in sports, was asked about a number of theories she teaches in her master’s and doctoral-level classes.

She brought up “social role theory” in which society has certain expectations on how men and women should act — women in a nurturing and loving role, and men in dominant roles.

Burton explained when a woman goes outside those norms, especially in sport, they tend to be devalued because it makes those around them uncomfortable. Females that show dominance in the work place are at a disadvantage with their male counterparts.

“As you move up the ladder, the risk of a dominance penalty become higher,” Burton claimed.

Burton will be back on the stand this afternoon, with Meyer expected to take the stand around 2:30 p.m.