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LGBTQ leader at UMD resigns in wake of divisive coach dismissals

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The founder of University of Minnesota Duluth's LGBT services is leaving her post, and offering stinging criticism of the university's actions on the way out.

Angela Nichols founded the Office of Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender (GLBT) Services 15 years ago, and in that time ushered UMD into the good graces of one of the leading national advocacy groups. The university was named a top-25 LGBT-friendly campus in 2013 and 2014.

But Nichols resigned Thursday, she told the Duluth News Tribune, saying she is "ashamed" to work for UMD.

Her issues with the university began in December of 2014, when it was announced heralded women's hockey head coach Shannon Miller's contract wouldn't be renewed. Her three-member coaching staff was also let go.

Miller told KDAL she went to UMD officials and said the coaches' ouster could be an issue because they're part of three legally-protected classes – all four are female, from Canada, and identify as gay or bisexual.

Afterward, Nichols told KDAL she felt like others at the school were retaliating against her for addressing those concerns. That led to her resignation decision.

A UMD spokesperson, when asked by the Duluth News Tribune for a comment, thanked Nichols for her service and noted she did "tremendous things" while there.

Lavender Magazine spoke with Nichols in 2008 about building up the GLBT Services Office.

Lawsuit from coaches expected

Meanwhile, Miller and two other dismissed coaches – Jen Banford and Annette Wiles – received letters from the U.S. Department of Justice giving them the right to sue, FOX 9 reported. They're expected to discuss the lawsuit Monday.

The coaches' non-renewals immediately drew concern from Campus Pride, a national student advocacy group, which revoked the university’s status as an “LGBT-friendly” school. A group of state senators also stepped in to ask for more information.

UMD officials indicated the move was a cost-cutting measure, but according to the senators’ letter university officials said there were “other factors” involved, but never specified what those were.

The letter further challenges the university’s reasoning for the dismissal, pointing out that the UMD men’s hockey coach – whose salary is higher than Miller’s, despite having a “lower winning percentage” – was not let go.

Miller arrived at UMD in 1998 and established the program as a national powerhouse, winning five NCAA championships. During her tenure at UMD she developed 28 current and former Olympians and posted a career .713 winning percentage at UMD.

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