Title IX complaint filed against Iowa State University by women’s tennis player


Sophomore Erin Freeman played for Iowa State Tennis on April 23. Freeman went 2-6 against Vladica Babic of OSU. The Cyclones fell 0-4 against Oklahoma. 

Noah Rohlfing

Iowa State women’s tennis player Erin Freeman has filed a Title IX complaint against Iowa State University through the United States Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, according to her attorney, Don Maurice Jackson. 

The complaint filed on Wednesday alleges that, among other things, the Iowa State athletics department created a “hostile educational environment.” Freeman provides 67 statements in the complaint, naming Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard, Senior Associate Athletic Director Calli Sanders and assistant coach Olga Elkin. Former women’s tennis head coach Armando Espinosa was also named in the filing. 

Freeman says that members of the university have attempted to “drive me out of the Women’s Tennis Program and have deprived me of educational opportunities based upon my race.”

Freeman mentions former assistant coach Olga Elkin multiple times in the complaint. According to Freeman, Elkin “frequently engaged in openly hostile behavior towards both African-American players,” and “stated that the [women’s tennis program] would save money if they were not required to include Liera Bender, the other African-American team member, on road trips.”

The allegations involving Elkin do not stop there. According to Freeman, Elkin left her near the campus of Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida, during a February 2018 trip. Bethune-Cookman College is a historically black college and Freeman said in the complaint that Elkin leaving Freeman there “appeared to be based upon both her hostility towards (Freeman) and her apparent lack of desire to be present on the campus of a historically black college.”

Freeman also alleges that Elkin “engaged in conduct that was calculated to remove me from the women’s tennis program and to terminate my financial aid.” 

Freeman was sent a letter of suspension from Senior Associate Athletics Director Callie Sanders on April 11, court documents show. The letter from Sanders indicated that student-athletes on the team had come to Sanders of their own volition and that her behavior was “affecting your teammates.” 

According to Freeman, the meeting was set up by Elkin and a trainer named “Ashley” through a group text that Freeman says she inadvertently received. Freeman also provided photo evidence of the text conversation in the complaint.

Subsequently, Freeman received another letter from Sanders on May 8 that reinstated her to the tennis program. The same day, head coach Armando Espinosa and the Iowa State women’s tennis staff was informed that they would not have their contracts renewed.

John McCarroll, Iowa State director of university relations, declined to comment when reached out via email. Sanders also declined to comment.

“Ms. Freeman’s treatment within the ISU Department of Athletics represents one of the most troubling abdications of authority that I have seen in a university Athletic Department,” Jackson said in a statement provided to the Iowa State Daily. “She approached two senior level administrators in the ISU Department of Athletics and requested that they address her selectively harsh treatment. On each occasion, she was summarily dismissed.

“The ultimate responsibility for her treatment rests on the shoulders of Jamie Pollard and Calli Sanders. There appears to be a systemic problem in the ISU Department of Athletics relative to the manner in which female and minority student-athletes are treated.”

Jackson called the situation a “systemic abdication of responsibility in the athletics department.”