When it comes to the Internet, our parents and guidance counselors always warned us about “being careful” about what we post online–as colleges will be “looking” at our many profiles before admission. I remember when I was first applying to college so many years ago and Facebook was the hot new thing, we’d refrain from being tagged in any photos that had a “red solo cup,” just in case.
Nowadays, using social media is a societal norm. While we should still be careful about what we post online (like, for example, using illegal substances and the like), there are some situations where it’s inappropriate for colleges and other organizations to discriminate people based on their social media posts. One student is claiming in a lawsuit that her college is discriminating against her after she was thrown off the Varsity Volleyball team, and in turn, lost her scholarship.
Shalom Ifeanyi, a former student at the University of Cincinnati, is filing a federal discrimination lawsuit against the college after she was kicked off the volleyball team. The reason? Her coach had said the photos on her Instagram were “too sexy.” Due to being let go from the volleyball team, Ifeanyi lost her academic scholarship for the following year. Ifeanyi was allowed to keep her scholarship for the 2017-2018 school year but was not allowed to apply for the scholarship for the 2018-2019 year.
According to the lawsuit, Ifeanyi had played competitive volleyball since high school and had been scouted for years. She originally decided to attend Oregon State University before transferring in 2017. The lawsuit also states that after transferring and joining the team, coach Molly Alvey was on Ifeanyi’s case about her personal social media photos. Out of fear from being let go from the team, Ifeanyi had removed several photos from her account–but, felt uncomfortable and confused why other girls on her team were allowed to pose in bikinis on social media, while her photos were fully clothed.
The lawsuit features a text exchange between Alvey and Ifeanyi, where the student spoke up and claimed she felt as though she was being “body shamed” for being a bit “thicker” and “bigger chested” than the other girls on the team. Alvey did not respond but acknowledged in person that she had received the message.
“Ok Coach However I feel like I’m being body shamed because I’m not flat chested. I’m not trying to show my boobs coach, I can’t make them go away. In these pictures I just got my hair done and really liked my makeup and thought the pictures were pretty. My teammates have swimsuit photos that are more revealing than me in a tank top. I will delete them if you really want me too [sic] but I feel like because people say I’m pretty I’m being sexualized. There’s a history of black women because of their bodies being sexualized and that’s what appears to be happening to me. I can’t help the way I’m built. I am not trying to argue, I just feel like I have to be flat chested or really skinny in order to post.”
After the text message exchange, and receiving an award from the school’s strength training coach, Ifeanyi was let go from the team. Alvey stated they had “different philosophies,” and had Ifeanyi return all of the school/team-issued gear and clothing.
Ifeanyi filed the Title IX complaint and lawsuit against the college, as well as the coaches. However, the case has not moved forward in the nine months since filing.