A husband and wife are suing Eastern Michigan University's president, athletic director and board of regents, claiming their alma mater violated Michigan's Open Meetings Act when it announced March 20 that it was eliminating men's wrestling and swimming and diving, and women's softball and tennis.
According to The Detroit News, Lawyers for Douglas and Mary Willer filed the complaint on May 10, seeking to reinstate the four varsity programs. "In fact, on information and belief, defendants conspired to make their decision to eliminate the four sports in secret and without public comment," the Willers' attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims public comment was limited to 30 minutes during an April 20 board of regents meeting, which took place a month after the cuts were announced, and none of the advocates for the four eliminated sports were allowed to speak during public comment, despite making requests. The lawsuit claims advocates were told no, "because of the issue of eliminating athletics was not on the agenda."
The lawsuit also claims Eastern Michigan is "greatly exaggerating" the savings of cutting the four sports programs. The university has said it will save $2.4 million a year, though supporters who have been looking to save the programs have been quoted a figure of millions more, with university officials citing long-term sustainability.
This week, the university publicly stated the lawsuit is "without merit in all regards" and that Eastern Michigan will "vigorously defend" itself.
"The regents are neither required nor expected to make administrative decisions such as this," university spokesman Geoff Larcom told The News. "To the contrary, board policies clearly indicate that such decisions are a university management function.
"This is not unique to Eastern. Other universities have similar policies."
Eastern Michigan has until May 31 to formally responded to the complaint in court.