UT cheer coach retires after accusations of discrimination

Courtesy University of Tennessee Spirit Team

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Longtime University of Tennessee Knoxville cheer coach Joy Postell-Gee has retired following a lengthy investigation into accusations of discrimination on basis of sexual orientation and race.

The University of Tennessee released information on her retirement and the status of the university's investigation into her on July 16, 2019.

"We recognize the investigation took longer than we would prefer," said UTK spokesperson Tyra Haag. Postell-Gee was on paid leave over a year, after being put there on June 29, 2018. That move was prompted by complaints the university received about her by students.

The Office of Equity and Diversity (OED) received formal complaints from two UTK students saying Postell-Gee "discriminated against them on the basis of sexual orientation and race."

According to a release from the university, "the investigation was delayed and complicated for several reasons, including significant difficulty in arranging meetings with [Postell-Gee]." The university also said the investigation was delayed because OED's "receipt of information" in connection to possible financial mismanagement of UTK's spirit program by Postell-Gee. The university said it referred the financial mismanagement issue to the Division of State Audit, and paused its investigation into the discrimination complaints to "ensure that it was permissible for OED to continue investigating the allegations under its policy jurisdiction."

The release said the OED "examined received comments and concerns...following local news reports of [Postell-Gee's] suspension."

"Some of the concerns referred to incidents that had been examined previously, but were being recounted again. Some concerns did not identify a discriminatory basis. A few reports were second or third hand and OED could not prove or disprove the recollections contained with in the reports," the release said. WVLT obtained Postell-Gee's personnel file which revealed a history of complaints stemming back to the 2015-2016 season.

The release also said other reports "may have had merit" but witnesses were reluctant to come forward with formal complaints.

The investigation found "evidence of poor and demeaning treatment of members of the spirit squad, and further found instances of disorganization and arbitrariness as to how the program was administered," the release said.

While the OED was looking into the complaints, the release said the office learned of Postell-Gee's plans to retire "which would achieve a result that was sought by the Complainants and would be meaningful as both Complainants are currently members of the spirit squad."

According to the release, the students who came forward "are satisfied" that Postell-Gee is no longer "associated with the program." Due to this, OED closed its investigation.

Haag said, "The university expects all of its employees to seek to cultivate a culture of respect for all people, to advance diversity as a strength, and support all of our students in a professional manner."

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