Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Update from Fresno Trial

The Bee covered Fresno State attorney's opening statement in the trial between the university and former volleyball coach Lindy Vivas, who alleges that she was fired in retaliation for her support of Title IX and because the department thinks she's gay. Two themes made its way into the report. One is Fresno State's argument that if it had wanted to fire Vivas for unlawful reasons, it would have done so sooner rather than let her serve in her position for 14 years. I'm not sure how persuasive that argument will be to the jury. For one thing, while Vivas may have been a coach for 14 years, only in her last two years did she serve under the athletic director (Scott Johnson) who decided not to renew her contract. Moreover, for much of Vivas's tenure Fresno State was under OCR's scrutiny following a 1994 investigation that found the university out of compliance with Title IX. This would have given the university good reason to quell any desire it might have had to terminate female personnel for unlawful reasons. (OCR finally approved Fresno State's corrective action plan in 2001. Vivas was fired in 2004.)

The second aspect of Fresno State's defense that the paper commented on was its attorney's argument that Stacy Johnson-Klein, one of two other female coaches suing the university for discrimination and a scheduled witness in Vivas's trial, is Vivas's former "enemy" and "rival" within the department. Said the attorney, "There are strange and predictable alliances in this trial...The old saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend has never been more true." Jeez, is this a trial or the Jerry Springer show? Why have a trial if you can have a cat fight?

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