Portland Draws Sanctions

Following a seven-month investigation brought on by accusations by a former player, Penn State is sanctioning women's basketball coach Rene Portland for violating the school's non-discrimination policy as it pertains to sexual orientation. Portland will remain as the coach of the Lady Lions, however.

The news came down at the Jordan Center Tuesday afternoon, with events unfolding in strange fashion. Tuesday morning, Penn State sports information issued a press release saying Portland would hold a press conference at 1 p.m.

Just before the conference began, a press release was handed out, and in it Portland said she would be back as the PSU coach next season. She also replied to a decision she said was made by PSU president Graham Spanier. But even as Portland took the podium and began reading her release verbatim — she declined to answer questions — there had been no release from the university.

The release from Old Main was handed out after Portland's press conference, and drew her comments into focus. In it, the university said Portland was being sanctioned for violating one section of the non-discrimination policy (sexual orientation) and cleared of violating another section (race).

The investigation was launched after former Lady Lion Jennifer Harris claimed Portland discriminated against her because of her race and because the coach perceived her to be a lesbian. Harris left the program following the 2004-05 season. A federal lawsuit was filed on Harris' behalf against the university and the coach.

The school's Office of Affirmative Action handled the internal investigation. The final report, which was written by PSU director of affirmative action Dr. Kenneth Lehrman, concluded “enough evidence existed to substantiate a claim that Portland discriminated against Harris by creating a 'hostile, intimidating, and offensive environment' because of Harris' sexual orientation.”

The sanctions are as follows.

• Portland received a written letter of reprimand that will be a permanent part of her personnel file at Penn State.

• Portland has been alerted that further violations of the code will result in her losing her job.

• Portland must participate in a “professional development experience devoted to diversity and inclusiveness.”

• Portland was fined $10,000.

In her written statement, Portland said, “With respect to the administrative decision's conclusions relating to claims involving alleged sexual orientation, I believe the process that was used to reach these conclusions was flawed. I believe the process failed to fairly consider and weigh all of the relevant information provided or which could have been provided.”

Next season will mark Portland's 27th at the helm of the Lady Lions. During a career that also included stops at St. Joe's and Colorado, she has compiled a 678-249 record, including a 592-220 mark at PSU.

In related news, the university release on the sanctions said the federal lawsuit filed by Harris is scheduled for mediation. It did not say when the mediator would receive the case.


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