Stories about young female students being asked to “cover up” or leave school because of the way they choose to dress are far too common. Often simply baring a shoulder or two is enough to warrant a complaint that they could be a “distraction” to the education of other students.
Now, Shalom Ifeanyi, a 19-year-old former student at the University of Cincinnati has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit claiming that she was forced to leave the volleyball team for posting pictures that were deemed “too sexy” on Instagram, something which lost her a scholarship.
The lawsuit was filed in Ohio federal court last week and stated in it are Ifeanyi’s allegations that she was discriminated against by the University of Cincinnati’s head women’s volleyball coach, Molly Alvey, because of her race and body type.
Take a look at some of the footage Shalom Ifeanyi posts on YouTube:
Alvey kicked the former student off the team, and as a result, brought an end to her athletic scholarship.
BuzzFeed News reached out to a spokesperson for the university’s athletic department, and they said they could not legally comment on the matter yet. Alvey has not responded to a request for a statement or interview with BuzzFeed News, the news outlet stated.
According to the lawsuit, Ifeanyi began playing competitive volleyball at a very young age and was approached by college recruiters when she was only 14 years old. She initially decided to go to Oregon State University, but, in January 2017, transferred to the University of Cincinnati.
According to the lawsuit, “almost immediately upon her arrival on campus, Alvey began harassing and shaming [Ifeanyi] about pictures she was posting on her personal social media accounts.”
Ifeanyi said that Alvey told her that the photos in which she was fully clothed were “too sexy”.
The lawsuit stated that the coach did not ask the other members of the women’s volleyball team – who were lighter in complexion and had a slighter physique – to take down photos of themselves in two-piece swimsuits.
At the time, Ifeanyi was in the process of recovery from knee surgery and was about to attend a meeting with Alvey to discuss how her rehabilitation was making progress.
At one point in the meeting, Ifeanyi alleged that Alvey closed the door and asked Ifeanyi to open up her Instagram page.
“When the football players see this, what do you think they see? They see your breasts. It’s seductive,” Alvey allegedly said of the “sexy photo” above. The coach then demanded that Ifeanyi remove the photo from her account.
The dedicated athlete agreed to Alvey’s request in order to avoid any serious punishment – namely, being removed from the team.
Some days later, Ifeanyi claimed she got a text message from her coach demanding that she remove a different photo from her Instagram page.
This time, Ifeanyi told Alvey that she believed she was being targeted because of her body type.
In a lengthy text message to Alvey, Ifeanyi explained why she felt she was being body shamed:
“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.”
About a week after Ifeanyi sent the message, she was awarded “top performer of the week” by the strength training coach.
However, she said that just five days after getting the award Alvey kicked Ifeanyi off the team, saying they “had different philosophies”.
It is a shame that something as superficial as a young girl posting selfies could cost her a scholarship, especially as there was nothing in them that any reasonable person would class as “too sexy”. We can only hope that a fair outcome results from this lawsuit.