Students, alumni, faculty and staff gathered outside Eastern Michigan University’s convocation center Monday, April 16 in a rally against the recent cut of four sports.
“We’re looking for accountability, we want answers from athletic director Scott Wetherbee, we want answers from president James Smith – we want to know why this happened, why it happened like this, why alumni were not consulted when this all went down…we want that information,” said rally organizer Kevin Dsak.
A continuing campaign seeking a reversal of the decision to cut EMU wrestling, men’s swimming, women’s tennis and softball held the rally to further protest from 6 – 7 p.m. Faculty members, EMU student athletes, and EMU alumni made up a crowd of 60 just in front of the main entrance to the convocation center.
The Ypsi Awards were happening at the same time as the protest, however, Dsak noted that their intention was not to interrupt them.
A van and trailer marked with ‘Save EMU Sports’ made a platform for multiple people to speak, including head coach for University of Michigan swimming Mike Bottom.
“You know hundreds of thousands of youth athletes are dreaming to be able to go to school at a place like Eastern Michigan, at a place like Michigan,” he said. “It is part of the Olympic dream – it’s not the whole dream, but its part of it.”
Bottom promised to donate $10,000 to the effort to fund the sports teams, explaining how he’s doing so to fund their dreams.
“What’s being said to these athletes when you say ‘we’re committed’ and then, one day, late at night, you come in and take away everything they have?” He said, “It’s just not right, and there’s other ways to do it…but here’s one way – personally, I’m committing $10,000 to this effort…there’s a lot of people like me who believe in these young people.”
Professor of accounting and EMU-AAUP member Howard Bunsis talked about the numbers associated with the cuts, addressing the crowd of students.
“To the students who participate in softball, wrestling, swimming and tennis: your hopes and dreams were taken away from you by an administration who only cares about themselves and not about you or our university,” he said. “We’re here to try to convince them to reverse this decision and allow you to pursue your dream and your commitment to your sport here at EMU.”
Bunsis explained how the university would be losing money rather then saving it if the four sports remain cut.
“The vast majority of you – you and your parents paid for you to go to school here,” he said. “So what happens? If we don’t have these sports anymore, all that tuition revenue goes away and, in addition, besides the money – all the energy and all the vitality that you guys bring to this university is gone, and that can’t be measured in dollars.”
Sophomore softball athlete Ariana Chretien came to support the effort with her boyfriend.
“I just think there are other ways you can go about making up for this deficient,” she said. “I think it was just a rash decision – I don’t think cutting these sports is going to save them the amount of money they think they’re going to save and that they need to save.”
Andrew Ciesielski, a 2006 swimming alumnus, said he would the university takes the continued support for the sports as cue to look back at their decision.
“I hope the administration revisits this and recognizes the voices that are here and can hopefully reverse their decision and bring back one the historic programs at this great university,” he said.
Some students continued after the rally on a walk to university president James Smith’s home to protest. The next Board of Regents meeting, on Friday, April 20, will discuss athletic decisions. A ‘save our sports’ rally is planned to take place outside Welch Hall the same day at 10:30 a.m.