Former women’s hockey coach Shannon Miller and seven other women filed a Title IX grievance against the University of Minnesota-Duluth this week, the latest move by former female coaches and players attempting to bring to light alleged gender discrimination violations by Bulldogs leaders.
A 12-page filing on Nov. 30 to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights cites 54 allegations of gender discrimination against women and women’s sports at Duluth. The allegations range from unjust firings of women’s coaches to discrepancies between men’s and women’s teams fringe benefits such as workout clothes and team snacks.
The complaint asks the Office of Civil Rights to investigate UMD on Title IX violations. Anyone can file a complaint; the OCR then decides whether to investigate and, if so, notifies both parties.
In September, Miller, Jen Banford and Annette Wiles — former Bulldogs women’s hockey, softball and women’s basketball coaches, respectively — sued the University of Minnesota Board of Regents in U.S. District Court. Their attorney, Dan Siegel, said then that recent events amount to “a purge of women coaches at the University of Minnesota Duluth.’’
Miller, Banford and Wiles are openly gay, and all claim their gender and sexual orientation played a part in their departure from UMD. The suit alleges the school created a hostile work environment, violated equal pay laws and Title IX principles and retaliated against the women. The suit demands a jury trial and asks for back pay, future pay and damages for emotional distress.
UMD Chancellor Lendley C. Black in September denied the school discriminated and expressed certainty that UMD would succeed in refuting the claims. “We are committed to fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion here at UMD,’’ he said. “I’m quite confident that throughout this process, it will be made clear that our decisions were made in the best interests of UMD. I’m confident we made the right decisions.’’
Along with the three former coaches, five current or former Bulldogs athletes are listed on the Title IX complaint: Madison Kolls (hockey), Tea Villila (hockey), Ashley Lewis (softball), Tatum Garrity (cross-country) and Jenna McParland (hockey).
The opening paragraphs of the complaint read: “Please accept this civil rights complaint against the University of Minnesota Duluth by current and former female student athletes and coaches who have been subjected to the discriminatory application of policies and practices at UMD.
“The disparities in benefits and services are numerous, systematic and affect all female athletes at UMD.”
The OCR guidelines don’t offer a timeline as to how long the office will examine a complaint. Opening an investigation “in no way implies that the OCR has made a determination with regard to the merits of the complaint,” the guidelines read.