Despite the backlash that remains from the spring sport cut announcement, Eastern Michigan University is moving forward following the federal Office of Civil Rights (OCR) dismissing a Title IX complaint against the university, on August 24. The complaint alleged that EMU discriminated against female athletes via the elimination of the women’s tennis and softball programs, thus not providing equal opportunities for members of both sexes in the athletic department.
The University requested the complaint to be dismissed by the OCR, as the agency’s policies allow for a complaint to be dismissed when there is ongoing litigation based on the same allegations. Currently, Eastern Michigan is facing a federal lawsuit by two former women athletes.
The former students, Marie Mayerova and Ariana Chietien, allege that the sport cuts resulted in an unfair choice for them and other student athletes. As noted in the suit they bring against the college:
“The choice to stay and force their dream is not a real choice or viable option for these Plaintiffs, nor is it a fair choice to ask of these student athletes who have given so much of their time, effort, blood, sweat and tears to their sports and the university betrayed their trust.”
While the University has noted that any athlete of a cut sport program still staying at Eastern would continue to have their scholarship paid, many in the EMU community have called for the sports to be reinstated. Despite pressure from current and former athletes and other concerned parties, the university does not plan to bring back the cut programs (included in the cut was men’s wrestling and men’s swimming and diving).
The university has repeated in several statements that “we [EMU] do not have the largest budget,” and that the decision to cut the selected programs allows for better support to the remaining 17 sports.
Vice President for Communications Walter Kraft wrote in a statement released on July 10 in regards to the federal OCR complaint that the university “recognize[s] how difficult this decision has been for the 83 student athletes (58 male and 25 female) who were participating in the four cancelled sports. We have great respect for all of them, including the two students involved in the lawsuit.”
As it stands, the OCR complaint can be re-filed within 60 days after the court proceedings are terminated, as long as no decision on the case’s merit is reached or there is a settlement with the allegations.