Professor: University of Iowa withholding 'embarrassing' emails about field hockey program



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IOWA CITY, Iowa — A University of Iowa professor said Thursday she believes the school is improperly withholding documents from the public that contain embarrassing information about its management of the women's field hockey program.

The university this month released emails related to the August termination of longtime coach Tracey Griesbaum, who was fired after an investigation into allegations of verbal abuse by former players. But the school also withheld many documents, saying they were confidential under state and federal laws protecting student privacy.

Education professor Betsy Altmaier, the school's former faculty athletics representative, had advocated on behalf of some players and parents who raised concerns about Griesbaum's behavior.

Altmaier said she turned over 250 pages of emails in August to university lawyers in response to an open records request from The Associated Press. After a review, the university released a single page from March 2011 in which Altmaier warned Barta that the parents of one player had raised "significant concerns."

The school withheld other emails that Altmaier said "suggest violations of university procedures by upper-level administrators with regards to sexual harassment."

"I can only speculate on their motives, but after reviewing my emails again, it appears they might find the release of them quite embarrassing," Altmaier said.

The university has defended its withholding of records, and spokesman Joe Brennan said the school is properly following federal and state laws.

Altmaier has supported Griesbaum's firing, accusing her of creating a climate of fear. She has questioned athletic director Gary Barta's 2013 decision to extend Griesbaum's contract by five years, which required a $200,000 buyout when Griesbaum was fired.

Many current and former players have rallied to Griesbaum's defense and accused Barta of holding female coaches to a higher standard than male coaches. Griesbaum, who is gay, has denied mistreating players and has alleged discrimination on the basis of her gender and sexual orientation. Barta has denied those allegations. The university said last week that Barta fired Griesbaum to protect athletes.

Altmaier said she has had a private attorney review her emails and they concluded that 12 more should have been released in their entirety because they didn't pertain to student-athletes. She said she believed about 200 additional pages could have been released after students' identifying information was removed.

She said the documents include her correspondence with an athletics administrator and investigators who looked into Griesbaum's behavior.

Griesbaum's attorney, Tom Newkirk, said he didn't believe the school was holding back any embarrassing records about his client. But he said he was concerned that university officials were letting Altmaier speak out "because she's saying things that are negative" about Griesbaum.

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