Shannon Miller’s lawsuit against UMD, no settlement reached yet

 Illustration by: Will Madison

Illustration by: Will Madison

In Dec. 2014, UMD administration announced that women’s hockey coach, Shannon Miller, was to be terminated after the 2014-15 season. A university press release stated that the decision was made based on financial reasons.

In Feb. 2015, Eric Kaler, president of the University of Minnesota, and Chancellor Black received a letter from thirteen state senators. In the letter the senators questioned the university’s reasons for letting Miller and former softball coach Jen Banford go. The letter raised the issue of Title IX of the federal education law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in any educational institution that receives federal funding, including discrimination in sports.

“As members of the Minnesota State Senate, we strongly support promoting gender equity and are hopeful that the University remains committed to ensuring diversity in the University system,” the letter stated.

On Feb. 24, 2015, Chancellor Black stated in a letter responding to Sen. Katie Sieben that the decision was purely made of financial reasons and a declining performance in the team.

“Both UMD athletics and I personally remain fully committed to the success of our women’s hockey program,” Chancellor Black said in the letter. “This decision was made with the interests of the program firmly in mind. We view it as an opportunity to move the program forward.”

On Sept. 28, 2015 Miller, former softball coach Jen Banford and former women’s basketball coach, Annette Wiles filed a discrimination lawsuit in District Court. The process has in fact not reached a settlement yet.

At a press conference the same day,  Miller, who is openly gay, said that she had felt discriminated towards at UMD.

“Sexism and homophobia are alive and well at the University of Minnesota,” Miller said.

On March 30, 2016 the Bulldogs announced that men’s hockey coach, Scott Sandelin, was given a 4-year extension to his contract, raising his base salary to 300,000 USD in 2017-18. At the time of Miller’s termination, her base salary was 207,000 USD.

A court-ordered private settlement failed to resolve on July 19, 2017. Around the same time, the case received a new judge. The previous judge assigned to the case, Senior Judge Richard Kyle, left due to a medical leave. U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz was assigned to the case.

Senior associate general counsel for the University of Minnesota, Tim Pramas, issued a statement to the DNT after the meeting.

"Court-ordered settlement conferences are a standard part of the judicial process for cases in our federal district," he said. "We remain strong in our belief that the claims of discrimination are unfounded. The university will continue to vigorously defend itself and fight the lawsuit to the conclusion through the legal process. We believe we have a strong case based on the facts and the law."

UMD has filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the judge to forego a trial and rule that the undisputed evidence of the case is overwhelmingly in its favor. Schiltz will be in charge of a hearing of the motion for the first time on Oct. 30.

 

NewsIdun Rasmussen