University of Minnesota homophobia

From the May-June 2015 issue of News & Letters

Duluth, Minn.—Shannon Miller, the only women’s hockey head coach the University of Minnesota, Duluth (UMD) has ever known, has been fired after 16 seasons. “Discrimination rears its ugly head in many forms, and I feel I have been discriminated against because I’m a woman. I feel I have been discriminated against because I’m gay,” she said.

The national Campus Pride organization suspended UMD’s LGBT-friendly designation. Then, on Feb. 20, 13 Senators from the Minnesota Legislature signed a letter criticizing the firing and demanding “further information on the reasoning behind the termination.” On Feb. 24, Mark Dayton, the Governor of Minnesota, joined with the 13 Senators and at a press conference criticized the treatment of Miller.

Despite her 382 wins, 10 NCAA Division I tournament appearances, seven Frozen Fours and a record five national championships, Miller’s program isn’t treated equally to the men’s hockey team (whose record is unimpressive). The men’s hockey program employs a full-time director while the women’s program is part-time. She is not paid as much as the men’s coach, who has one national championship compared to Miller’s five.

Chancellor Lendley Black said in December that the decision to dismiss Miller was a “financially driven decision.” Weeks later he said there were “other considerations as well,” but insisted that there was no bias against lesbians. His statement is difficult to believe as several of the gay faculty at UMD told us that they have been “hammered” by threats to silence them from criticizing Black publicly. Members of The Queer and Allied Students Union told us that there is fear of reprisal.

On March 27, the UMD administration announced that it would be providing a Minor in GLBT Studies.  Though this was being considered for several years, now it has been crammed through without ceremony. We have the impression that the male officials at UMD are trying to put out fires in all directions.

—Kathleen Cain and Séamas Cain

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