Eastern Michigan University students, athletes, faculty, and alumni -- along with two robust social media groups -- are calling on their university to refrain from canceling university four sports programs at the end of this month.
"We're asking for Eastern Michigan University to provide interested parties like us a real chance to understand the athletic budget and how the determination was made to eliminate several award-winning programs," said Aaron Sulzer, one of many student-athletes and alumni concerned about recently proposed EMU budget cuts to its athletic programs. "While the university says the savings from cutting these programs is $2 million, some experts believe the savings is much less -- perhaps as little as $61,000. Based on my understanding, the university is being shortsighted and not taking into account the revenue that is being generated in tuition from these athletic programs. The university is risking its reputation among students, faculty and alumni by attempting to save just a small amount of funding."
Students, alumni, and faculty also remain concerned that these decisions to eliminate athletic programs such as tennis, wrestling, softball and men's swimming came with little interest in the Board of Regents operating with complete transparency, they said.
"It's unconscionable that Eastern Michigan University would even consider eliminating these worthwhile and valuable programs, negatively impacting the lives of hundreds of student-athletes," said Laurie Hubbard, EMU Hall of Fame Swimmer. "It is my hope that the President and Board of Regents allow cooler heads to prevail and give serious thought to alternative ways to achieve savings in the university's athletic programs."
The Board of Regents also should establish a broader, well-reasoned plan of action and give these programs the opportunity to seek outside funds and resources to preserve the sports that are proposed to be cut.
"Eastern Michigan University also needs to consider the long-term effect these cuts will have on current and prospective students in other sports or considering attending the school to continue their athletic careers," said Kevin Doak, an EMU swimming alumnus who is organizing Save EMU Sports, a social media group which already has 40,000 signatures on a Change.Org petition calling for the cancellation of these cuts. "Making haphazard cuts to certain programs while leaving others intact leads to instability and indecision, which can negatively impact student enrollment in the long run."
Doak is organizing a rally to be held on the campus of EMU on Monday, April 16. That rally -- sponsored by the Coalition For A Better EMU -- will begin at 6 p.m. outside the campus's Convocation Center, located at 799 North Hewitt Road in Ypsilanti.
A second rally is scheduled for Friday, April 20 to further protest the cuts. The start time for that gathering is at 10 am in front of Welch Hall.
"We're cautiously optimistic that we can have some sort of positive resolution to this crisis with the university," Hubbard said. "Until that time, we intend to continue to have ongoing dialogue with university officials to show them the errors of their ways."