EMU facing Title IX federal investigation and lawsuit
Eastern Michigan University is looking at a federal Title IX investigation after cutting four sports last March as part of an effort to trim spending in the athletics department.
EMU Vice President and Director of Athletics Scott Wetherbee announced on March 20 that, in addition to 17 previously-announced layoffs across the university, four sports would be eliminated: wrestling, men’s swimming and diving, women’s tennis, and women’s softball. The university says 83 students were involved in these sports: 58 men and 25 women. Following these cuts, EMU still maintains 17 sports teams: 10 female and seven male.
Two female athletes, former EMU tennis player Marie Mayerova and softball player Ariana Chretien, filed a Title IX lawsuit in June. Chretien says one of the main goals of the lawsuit is for EMU to reinstate the cut teams.
“The ideal outcome would be just for our sports to get reinstated. Men's and women's would be ideal, you know, I don't want to see any athletes’ sports being cut. But Title IX has given us an opportunity to fight for women's rights.”
While Chretien and Mayerova hope to get their respective programs reinstated, their lawsuit may be put on hold due to a separate Title IX complaint that has been filed with the federal Office of Civil Rights. On Tuesday morning, EMU said it had asked a judge to stay the lawsuit until the federal investigation is complete.
Chretien says she is disappointed, as she will only be at EMU for two more years and does not yet know how long her lawsuit could be put on hold. But she still hopes the softball team could get reinstated for the benefit of future athletes.
“We would have young softball players come to our softball games and tell us that they were looking forward to trying out for softball at Eastern Michigan and it was really heartbreaking to think about that they won't even get the opportunity to try out.”
In its most recent statement, the university reiterates that “the decision to eliminate four sports programs was extremely difficult,” but that “we believe our budgetary actions in this matter are wholly appropriate and justified.” The university has no plans to reinstate the four sports programs, but promises to honor the scholarships of any affected athletes who choose to remain at the school.
The original version of this post stated Scott Wetherbee announced 17 layoffs in the athletics department. It has been corrected to say the 17 layoffs were campuswide and announced prior to March 20.