YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP) — Eastern Michigan University will pay two female student athletes a combined $125,000 to settle a lawsuit that accused the university of discrimination when it eliminated their softball and tennis teams in 2018.
Former EMU softball player Ariana Chretien will receive a $100,000 payment, and the remaining $25,000 will go to tennis player Marie Mayerova. The university will also pay the athletes' legal fees.
The pair sued EMU in June 2018 after it decided to eliminate women's softball and tennis, and men's wrestling and swimming and diving because of budget cuts. The university has already reinstated tennis. Softball, Chretien’s team, will not return.
Tuesday’s settlement comes after the students argued that eliminating women’s sports violated Title IX, which requires colleges to match the male and female athletic participation to the ratio of total enrollment.
In 2016-17, Eastern Michigan reported that 60% of its enrolled students are undergraduate women and 40% are undergraduate men. But women comprised of 44% of the athletics program’s participation, while men made up 56%, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
The athletes also argued that the timing of the elimination also cost them the opportunity to transfer to other colleges and continue their athletic careers.
Judge George Caram Steeh of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan approved the settlement agreement, which dismisses the claims against the university, president James Smith, athletic director Scott Wetherbee and the Board of Regents.
"Our team has worked together with the plaintiffs' legal counsel for 15 months to arrive at a fair result,” EMU spokesman Geoff Larcom said. “This settlement reflects the university’s continued laser focus on compliance with Title IX."
The university will put $2 million toward women’s sports over the next three years. It will also add a women's lacrosse team. EMU will hire a Title IX consultant, and the court will appoint a third-party monitor to oversee that the terms of settlement are being met.
Jill Zwagerman, attorney for the athletes, said her clients were pleased EMU “wanted to step up and do the right thing,” despite not agreeing to reinstate its softball program.
“There is still much that needs to be done to help EMU obtain compliance with Title IX, but their agreement to be monitored and report back to the Court for the next few years is a step in the right direction,” Zwagerman said.