WEB EXCLUSIVE: Former trainer takes GW to court

Posted 1:30 a.m. Dec. 13- Court proceeding began this week in a sexual discrimination case against GW. Former head trainer Jacquelyn Jenkins is suing the University in D.C. Superior Court because she was not allowed to work with the men’s basketball team for the 1999-2000 season, her first year at the post.

Jenkins alleges that she was prohibited from working with the men because she is a woman. GW athletic officials testified that they had planned to put the new head trainer, regardless of gender, with the women’s team to increase morale.

The suit was filed May 2000.

On Wednesday, witnesses disagreed with each other about what Athletic Director Jack Kvancz told Jenkins after the 1999-2000 season.

“I was told that I was not allowed to work with men’s basketball and that it was a ‘gender issue,'” Jenkins testified. “(Kvancz) said that the players would rather be treated by someone of their own gender.”

“I know that’s not what I said,” Kvancz testified. “It’s not something I would say. That’s not something I believe.

Jenkins became head trainer in 1999 when Beverly Westerman, who worked as head trainer since 1985, left the position after six years training the men’s basketball team.

Jenkins, who worked six years as assistant trainer, testified that she took the job thinking she would assign herself to the men’s position. But Kvancz testified that she accepted the job knowing that she would not be able to work with the men. The team had failed to make the NCAA Tournament the year before, he said, and needed a morale boost because of coaching problems.

Prosecutor Michael Kane pointed out inconsistencies in defense witness testimony in Wednesday. One witness for GW, Assistant Athletic Director Susie Jones, testified Wednesday that Jenkins was promised to work with the men’s team her second season. But Kvancz disputed that, saying he only suggested rotating the job from season to season.

“I was a little befuddled (when Jenkins resigned), she has worked so hard to get men’s basketball,” Jones said. “I felt we had given it to her, and I didn’t understand why she was resigning.”

When confronted with Jenkin’s concerns, Kvancz testified, he told Jenkins he would “work it out.”

The prosecution alleged Kvancz violated the D.C. Human Rights Act by discriminating against Jenkins because of her gender and assigning then-assistant trainer Christopher Hennelly to the team instead.

“This was 1999, not 1899,” Kane said in his opening statement Monday. “This was a job being given solely on gender.”

Kane said men’s basketball is considered “the premier sport” at GW and is the best chance for a trainer to advance her career because it provides travel, staffing and media exposure opportunities.

“I had a great loss of self-pride that because of my gender I could not work on the most prestigious sport at the University,” Jenkins said Tuesday.

Jenkins had previously worked with the men’s baseball team as an
assistant trainer.

Kane said when former men’s basketball coach Tom Penders, who has been friends with Kvancz since high school, came to GW in 1998, the two men promoted Hennelly, who is now head athletic trainer, without Jenkins’ consent.

“As you will see, the old boys’ network was at play,” Kane said. “When Jackie went to interview about the position of head athletic trainer, the decision had already been made by old friends. The die had been cast, but Jackie didn’t know that.”

Defense attorney Karen Khan said after former Head Athletic Trainer Beverly Westerman left the position, Kvancz and Assistant Athletic Director Susie Jones had decided the new head athletic trainer would be assigned to the women’s basketball team to “increase morale” of the team.

Westerman, who worked as head trainer since 1985, said she did not consider morale of a team when appointing a trainer.

“I guess I never thought about it,” she said. Westerman resigned her position after six years training the men’s basketball team to become an assistant professor in the GW Medical Center.

When asked how he got assigned the men’s team, Hennelly testified Wednesday that “it just came to be.” Hennelly said he found out when the men’s pre-season physical examination files on his desk instead of the women’s team, which he had trained for four years.

Jones testified that Jenkins made a list of trainer assignments for the year and that Hennelly was assigned to the men’s basketball team.

Kvancz testified earlier he also did not know how Hennelly became the men’s basketball trainer.

Kane asked the jury to award damages in the case based on Jenkins’ loss of income, job displacement and emotional harm. He said she was “humiliated” because she was unable to advance her career.

“I moved to Philadelphia in hopes of finding a better market for a job with a university,” said Jenkins, who now works for a Philadelphia company that places athletic trainers in interim positions.

“She did assume the sham title of head athletic trainer and did get a salary raise,” Kane said. “Then she fought back.”

Khan said the defense would not dispute that Jenkins was qualified, but the “head athletic trainer does not automatically get assigned to men’s basketball.”

“The bottom line is that Jackie Jenkins quit her job,” Khan said. “There is no forced resignation in this case.”

Defense lawyers said they expect Robert Chernak, vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, to testify tomorrow about a letter Jenkins sent him almost a year before she resigned in spring 2000.

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