Student athletes express anger at Board of Regents meeting

The April 20 Board of Regents meeting was packed to its 130 person capacity, many of the members of the audience being athletes who had been protesting just hours before.

After a rally where student athletes and alumni protested the cut of four sports, arguments continued into the scheduled Board of Regents meeting Friday, April 20. 

All members of the board were in attendance at the meeting, which took place at 1 p.m. in Welch Hall, room 201. The room was filled up to its 130-person capacity, with some protestors from the rally just before being turned away from entry. Many of the athletes stood to the sides as the meeting began. 

Most of the items on the schedule of discussion for the meeting went uninterrupted, including the approval of summer research and activity awards to EMU faculty summing to $12,000 each. The Board also approved the opening of a new Saginaw charter school

Assistant vice president of student affairs Ellen Gold was the recipient of the 2018 EMU-ACE Distinguished Woman in Higher Education Leadership award for her 36 years of work at the university. 

University president James Smith began his report just after Gold’s award, noting the 2,600 graduates who registered for Saturday, April 21 commencement ceremonies. 

“These graduates will go on to do great things, whether in Michigan – where the vast majority of our graduates work and live – or those who will be returning to their homes in other states or other countries,” Smith said. 

Smith then went on to discuss the recent budget decisions made by the university, referencing similar decisions made by other universities, including Eastern Kentucky University’s struggles with a $25 million shortfall and University of California Burkley’s considering cutting sports to make up for a deficient in their budget. 

He briefly addressed the sports decisions, resulting in boos from a couple attending athletes in the audience. 

We greatly respect our student-athletes in the affected sports and we are deeply sorry to have had to make this decision and for the impact it has on their lives,” Smith said. “We are doing everything we can to support them in the transition – we will honor their scholarships if they wish to stay here and complete their degree, which we hope they will. If they choose to transfer to another school to continue their sport, we will fully support them in that effort.”

Ten speakers were scheduled for the meetings, including student body president and vice president Miles Payne and Larry Borum III. Just reaching the end of their terms, the two urged the board to do more to connect to students’ concerns for the university. 

“As we walk out these doors, Miles and I plead with you all to take the concerns you are hearing around campus seriously,” said Borum. “We’ve been addressing culture and moral since our first set of speeches with you all and frankly have seen nothing change.” 

Chairman James Webb gave final comments at the end of the meeting, referring to the athletes that were present. He told a story of how, when he was in high school, he could have gone to Fresno State University, Sacramento State University, or EMU. He chose EMU, later finding out that the two previous had removed their aquatics programs 25 years prior to 2018’s cuts to EMU’s swim team. 

“We don’t want to do this, we just are running out of cash, and frankly, if we don’t make these decisions, the ones down the road will be much, much tougher,” Webb said. “We tried to be as human as we could with you [the athletes]…”

Webb was interrupted by one of the athletes saying ‘Wrong!’ and multiple speaking over him, demanding to get a chance to speak to the board. Webb eventually adjourned the meeting despite the arguments. The board walked out with athletes hanging behind. 

A formal request must be filled out to speak at the Board of Regents meeting. All Board documents can be found on the Board of Regents website

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