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Jean Jew Justice Committee records

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: IWA0444

Scope and Contents

The Jean Jew Justice Committee records date from 1982 to 1999 and measure 5 linear inches. About half of the records are newspaper clippings.

The Asa Black materials detail an earlier dispute about faculty promotions within the anatomy department involving some of the same people and same issues that arose during Jew's case. The committee roster file includes a list of over three hundred committee members and supporters within the University and in the Iowa City community.

The correspondence includes letters between the committee and various administrators, most notably Provost Peter Nathan and President Hunter Rawlings, and a letter from Jew which updated the committee about her interactions with administrators in the wake of the U.S. District Court judgment and subsequent settlement in November 1990. The press releases in this folder were written and distributed by the JJJC to raise public awareness about the case.

The binder materials were compiled by the Council on the Status of Women. These include a timeline of events, newspaper clippings, court records, related correspondence, and images of sexually suggestive “graffiti” about Jean Jew that appeared in the anatomy department’s hallways and men’s room. The binders include the University of Iowa’s report on its investigation, a statement issued to faculty in the department of anatomy, and letters to Robert Tomanek and William Kaelber, professors in the anatomy department who were found to have engaged in sexual harassment and contributed to the creation of a hostile work environment.

The court records consist of three documents. The first is an application for fees filed by Jew's attorney Carolyn Chalmers, which argues that the University should pay Jew's legal fees of nearly one million dollars. Disagreement on this point was one of the main reasons the University decided to appeal the decision. The second document is the defendants' proposed finding of facts. This document (often referred to as a brief) was prepared by Thomas Miller, Iowa's attorney general, who represented the defendants: the University of Iowa and the Board of Regents; it presents the facts of the case from the University's point of view. The third document is the memorandum of opinion issued by Judge Vietor in which he finds the University guilty. Judge Vietor reached this conclusion by applying the legal definition of sexual harassment established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Meritor Savings Bank v Vinson in 1986 and using a five part test established by the Eighth Circuit in Hall v Gus Construction Co. in 1988. Judge Vietor ordered the university to take several measures to compensate Jew for past wrongs, including a retroactive promotion to full professor, back pay, and "all reasonable steps to assure a hostility-free work environment."

The newspaper clippings chronicle the Jean Jew case from 1984 to 1991, and provide an overview of the local, regional, and national coverage of the case and its aftermath. Clippings from October 1999 demonstrate that the turmoil in the anatomy department had not yet subsided.

A t-shirt with the inscription "International Coalition for Academic Freedom and Gender Justice, Iowa Campaign: First Stage, 1983-1990" completes the collection.


  • Creation: 1982-1999


Conditions Governing Access

The records are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

In 1985, Jean Y. Jew, an associate professor in the anatomy department of the College of Medicine at the University of Iowa, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the University of Iowa in U.S. District Court. Jew alleged that she had been victimized by a hostile working environment for twelve years and denied a promotion to full professorship on the basis of sex. Jew also filed a lawsuit in Johnson County District Court against her colleague, Robert Tomanek, charging him with slander and defamation of character. Jew won both suits. In June 1990, a jury found Tomanek guilty of slander and ordered him to pay Jew $35,000 in compensation.

In August 1990, U.S. District Judge Harold Vietor upheld Jew's claims against the University. He ordered the University to promote Jew to full professor, compensate her with back pay, and provide an environment free of sexual harassment. When the University of Iowa decided to appeal the ruling, concerned faculty and staff members organized the Jean Jew Justice Committee (JJJC) in October 1990. The JJJC was steered by Martha Chamallas, law professor and chair of women's studies, and Margery Wolf, a professor of anthropology.

The JJJC had several aims. First, it hoped to pressure the University of Iowa into dropping the appeal. The committee also wanted to educate the University community about sexual harassment in the collegiate workplace and to build a coalition of faculty, staff, and community activists who would vocally oppose any form of sexual harassment at the University. And finally, the members of the JJJC wanted to demonstrate their support for a colleague.

The JJJC met frequently between October 1990 and February 1991. Members communicated privately with various high-level administrators. Publicly, they distributed informational leaflets, held university-wide forums, and published their views in local and regional newspapers. In November 1990, the University reached an agreement with Jew and dropped its appeal. As University administrators began to take substantive steps to rectify Jew's situation, the JJJC grew less active, though it maintained a small bank account. The JJJC ceased to exist as a formal body in April 1992.


9.5 linear inches

Language of Materials



The committee organized in 1990 to support Jean Jew in her sexual harassment lawsuit against the University of Iowa.

Method of Acquisition

The initial records (donor no. 650) were donated by Margaret Wolf in 1999 and 2002. In 2016, additional records (donor no. 1453) were donated by the Council on the Status of Women. The t-shirt (donor no. 246) was donated by Dottie Persson in 1994.

Related Materials

University of Iowa Council on the Status of Women records (IWA): Contains trial transcripts from Jew v University of Iowa, et al. and information about the Jean Y. Jew Women's Rights Award and its recipients.

Bridgett Williams-Searle, 1999; Elizabeth Engel, 2005; Heather Cooper, 2019
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Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)