The Polk County Courthouse shown on Thursday, April 20, the fourth day of the Meyer v. University of Iowa trial. (The Daily Iowan/Blake Dowson)

Meyer v. UI trial: Testimony centers on Jane Meyer transfer

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By Blake Dowson

blake-dowson@uiowa.edu

DES MOINES — Kevin Ward, the University of Iowa vice president for Human Resources and noticeably hoarse from his three hours on the stand on April 18, was back on the stand April 19 answering questions about former Senior Associate Athletics Director 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 the morning hashing out the timeline surrounding the memo Meyer sent to Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta detailing her concerns about gender discrimination in the Athletics Department. Meyer, who sent the memo on Dec. 4, 2014, was notified she was being transferred out of the Athletics Department the following day.

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

View a timeline of events here

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.”

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

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)

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 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.”

Meyer finally took the stand around 3 p.m. Wednesday The former senior associate athletic director gave off the persona of an All-American woman; she grew up in the Iowa heartland, working hard for everything she achieved growing up.

“That’s how we were raised growing up,” Meyer said. “Wake up Saturday morning, and the chores are on the fridge, and you do them.”

Meyer spoke on her rise through the different levels of the NCAA until she was hired by the UI in 2001 for the position she held until being transferred.

Her performance reviews were brought up again when she was on the stand, but there was no mention of Barta until she had been under oath for almost 30 minutes.

Attorney Jill Zwagerman, facilitating questions on behalf of Meyer’s team, first asked about her relationship with the man who hired her, former Iowa Athletics Director Bob Bowlsby.

“It was great,” Meyer said. “He was very supportive of my aspiration to become a Division-1 athletics director.”

Bowlsby had the same thoughts in his 2005-06 review of Meyer, in which he stated she was “more than ready to move to the director’s chair.”

After Barta was hired in 2006 to replace Bowlsby, Meyer said her relationship with her new boss was functional.

In 2008, issues starting arising between the two, Meyer said. Meyer was working for the university preparing for the flood from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and working for the Athletics Department each night. That caused communication issues on Barta’s end.

Between 2012 and 2014, Meyer contended that she raised concern to Barta on the number of female coaches being fired. In her mind, they weren’t given a fair opportunity to succeed.

Meyer, in charge of facilities during her time at the UI, noted rowing coach Mandi Kowal being fired in 2012, before she could take advantage of the new boathouse the university had just built.

In 2014, volleyball coach Sharon Dingman was removed from her contract after years of requesting a new playing surface, which was denied.

Meyer also spoke on times when Barta undermined her in front of other employees in the department and about the two separate times (in 2008 and 2012) she asked for a pay raise comparable with her Big Ten peers and was denied.

Meyer will continue on the stand this morning when Carroll will have a chance to cross-examine, and it is expected that Barta will testify as well.

 

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