Eastern Michigan University’s athletic program is the target of a federal investigation following a civil rights complaint and the school’s move to cut four varsity sports amid budget struggles.
The Detroit Free Press reported Tuesday that an investigation began in late April after complaints were filed with the federal Office of Civil Rights. The complaints and a federal lawsuit accuse the Ypsilanti-based university of being out of compliance with federal civil rights law Title IX, which mandates that universities provide for equal participation in sports among men and women.
Two women’s sports teams were cut as part of the four eliminated to save $2.4 million, the university said in March. The decision affected 58 male students and 25 female students. Eight full-time coaches, one graduate assistant and one part-time assistant coach were also affected.
“Eastern Michigan University will cooperate fully with the OCR inquiry,” university spokesman Geoff Larcom told Crain’s in an email. “The University has filed a motion to stay with the federal court, pending the completion of the OCR investigation.”
Larcom said the reason for the university’s filing is that the federal lawsuit filed in June by two female student-athletes and complaint to the Office of Civil Rights “raise identical issue that are uniquely within the expertise of the OCR and over which it has broad authority.”
EMU is also making cuts outside of its athletics department. A total of 42 open positions were eliminated and 17 employees were laid off at the school this year, prompting protest from some students and faculty members.
The Office of Civil Rights has not provided an expected completion date for its investigation, which will focus on whether the university “fully meets the interests and abilities of both genders,” according to the Free Press.