YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP) — Eastern Michigan University is under federal investigation for allegations its athletic program discriminated against female athletes by not offering equal opportunities.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights launched the investigation following a complaint filed in April over the university’s compliance with Title IX, the Detroit Free Press reported. The complaint came a month after the university announced it was dropping softball, wrestling, women’s tennis and men’s swimming and divingbecause of budget cutbacks.
“Eastern Michigan University will cooperate fully with the OCR inquiry,” said spokesman Geoff Larcom.
The Office for Civil Rights is assessing whether the university is following Title IX, which requires colleges match the male and female athletic participation to the ratio of total enrollment. Title IX also calls for the university to show a history of continuing program expansion or fully meeting interests of both genders.
Eastern Michigan last reported that 60 percent of its enrolled students are undergraduate women and 40 percent are undergraduate men. But women comprise 44 percent of the athletics program’s participation, while men make up 56 percent.
Two female athletes also sued the school last month for eliminating their sports programs in an effort to save about $2.4 million. The move affected 58 male student-athletes and 25 female student-athletes. University officials said they’ll honor athletic scholarships for students who choose to stay and complete their degrees instead of transferring to other schools.
But some student athletes have said that’s not a fair choice. Marie Mayerova, a former tennis player at Eastern Michigan who is from the Czech Republic, argues in the lawsuit that she doesn’t have the resources to transfer schools, which would require obtaining a new scholarship and re-applying for a student visa.
The university argues that the court should place a hold on the lawsuit until the federal investigation is complete. The investigation’s timeline is unclear.