Ashley Lewis: Title IX Complaint Q & A

BY JIMMY GILLIGAN | The Statesman Allegations of inequality between men’s and women’s athletic programs at UMD resurfaced this week after a formal Title IX complaint was filed against the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Named on the complaint, which was filed Nov. 30 with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, are four former female student-athletes: Madison Kolls, Tea Villa, Tatum Garity and Jenna McParland. Additionally, one current UMD student-athlete: Ashley Lewis, a senior on the softball team, was named on the complaint.

Ashley Lewis

Former UMD coaches Shannon Miller (women’s hockey), Annette Wiles (women’s basketball) and Jen Banford (softball), who earlier this year filed a lawsuit against UMD for Title IX law violations, were part of the complaint.

The formal complaint cited over 50 separate instances of discrimination of women’s athletic programs at UMD.

Lynne Williams, UMD’s External Affairs Director, issued a statement on behalf of Chancellor Lendley Black and UMD.

“We have reviewed the complaint and continue to refute the claims of discrimination. We will fully comply with any potential investigations,” Williams said, in an email.

Kolls declined to comment on the topic, while Garity and McParland did not respond to requests for an interview.

Statesman editors Hannah Broadbent and Jimmy Gilligan sat down with Lewis to discuss her involvement in the Title IX complaint.

How did you become involved in this complaint?

First, my softball coach, that’s how it all started, Jen and Madison Kolls, she’s a former UMD hockey player she basically started it all she brought it up to us, and asked for us athletes who want to be a part of it, so that’s how it all started

So Madison Kolls just emailed all of the student athletes about it?

I knew her before this, and she reached out to me individually, and I don’t know if she sent an email out, but the ones that are a part of it she reached out to us

When did you get on board with the complaint, when did Madison Kolls reach out to you, what sort of a timeline was this?

It started before summer, last spring.

Are you guys friends off of the court/ice?

Yeah, I wouldn’t say we’re close friends, but we’re acquaintances. We always support each other.

So were you on board with joining the complaint right away?

Yeah, I was, because it’s important and I feel it needs to be addressed.

How about your relationship with any of the other players involved in the complaint, have you had conversations with them, did you guys have meetings, or

No, we haven’t talked about this, I mean except for the initial one when we came out with the idea that we would do it, but we’ve never talked about it (since).

Going back to when Banford Wiles and Miller filed the initial lawsuit, what were your thoughts about that? Did you ever think then that if the opportunity ever came out to have a voice in the Title IX issues at UMD you would jump at it?

I never thought of it before all of this happened, because I didn't really see the problems that were going on at the school, until this problem was addressed and brought forth, but I’m glad that I am apart of it now.

When you look back at your time here is there anything that jumps out a some sort of discrimination?

There’s not much that jumps out to me personally a lot of this discrimination stuff has to deal with the coaches, rather than us players, so i think that’s more something they can talk about, not me.

What do see your role in this complaint as? Did you just sign your name on it or was there kind of talk between parties?

I think me being the only current athlete that has a big thing to do with it, I think from my standpoint is having the complaint come about is having the investigation so current and future female athletes have equality

What comes with being the only current student-athlete involved in the complaint, were you hesitant to join at first?

I’m not hesitant because this isn’t a problem I have with our athletic department, it’s nothing I have a problem with, it’s just something that I think needs to be looked into.

Have you personally felt unequal treatment as opposed to the men’s teams?

I don’t really talk with the men’s teams, and I don’t know much about it, so I can’t personally say anything like that.

A lot of people wouldn't feel comfortable with putting their name out there with a formal complaint. What made you do it?

I'm really close with Jen Banford the previous coach, she was very supportive of all of us and our families, and we’re all very close.  I guess my side of it is not with the lawsuit, it's with this University and equality for everyone, is what I think.  

So that's the end goal for all of this?

Yeah, to see equality for the current athletes and ones to come.

Have you talked to Banford since the lawsuit or complaint came out?

I haven't had any conversations with her about this lawsuit or anything dealing with it. It's just been “Hey, how are you?” Just checking in, that’s all it is.

Based on the complaints and the things you’ve experienced playing here what are some of the changes you wanna see?

What I would like to see is mainly our field being part of the campus, it's all the way on Junction. I don't know if that is why we don't have so many fans or not, it would just be nice to see it next to all the other athletic fields.

Is that the reason for getting involved with it, that you want people to know about the potential violations?

Exactly, the Title IX complaint isn't a lawsuit, I think that's the main thing that people need to know. It’s that it’s something that needs to just be looked into. That’s all it is. I mean that’s a law, Title IX is a law.

What does it kind of feel like, that, in your senior year, you’re apart of a Title IX complaint? That’s something you must have never thought you’d be a part of.

That’s true, I never thought about that, I guess I always thought that everything goes smoothly, yeah like this wouldn’t happen, like I said. I guess that I just want it to be right for other people, so I think that’s why I feel so strongly about it.

How do you proceed? Do you think you’re going to set up meetings, do you have any plan, or is it just that you wanted to get this out there?

To be honest I have no clue, because like Tea (Villa), she’s in Finland, so I have no clue how it’s all going to work.


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