Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Battle for MSU swim and dive meeting with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee

March 10, 2021
<p>Lansing Capitol building shot from Townsend Street. Photographed on Oct. 1, 2020.</p>

Lansing Capitol building shot from Townsend Street. Photographed on Oct. 1, 2020.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

During a March 10 press conference, Michigan State’s swimming and diving program said it will move forward in its efforts to reinstate the program despite setbacks in its Title IX case and the university telling them the decision was final

MSU announced in October that they would be cutting the swimming and diving program following the 2021 season due to a lack of funding to improve the university’s facilities for swimming and diving and an overall revenue deficit for the year because of COVID-19. 

“Obviously money talks, but there has to be something said for the student-athlete, the experience because money can give you a lot of things, but life is more than just money,” sophomore swimmer Jack Hiss said. “And swimming is more than just money. So, I just wanted to interject with that because I feel like if you're looking for a reason, there's one. There's one that overarches all the rest.”

Karen Currie, the organizer of the press conference, said that Battle for MSU Swim and Dive has a meeting with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for the state of Michigan on March 11 at 3 p.m. Currie said the goal of the meeting is to have the Subcommittee evaluate the amount of money given to Michigan State from the state government as a public institution and how MSU chooses to spend that money. 

“I think it's educating them because I think there's a tremendous amount of misinformation, and quite honestly, lack of information on behalf of the university,” Currie said. “So, I think it's educating them and making them aware of how this all came down, for lack of a better word, and then asking them on behalf of Michigan State University, on behalf of the state, that is the one that appropriates the funds to the state university, that they can work on behalf of these current swimmers and alumni swimmers in providing an opportunity to have this seat at the table.”

Tom Munley, an alumnus of the men’s swimming team and member of the Battle for MSU Swim and Dive said that they want to use this opportunity to have the state legislature investigate Michigan State’s spending with government-provided funds. 

“We want to make sure that the state legislature before they give Michigan State any more taxpayer dollars, is asking the questions of Michigan State, how do they make sure that they're going to be spent wisely?” Munley said. “Why should the state legislature entrust Michigan State with more money if they're just gonna continue to spend it frivolously and make poor financial decisions?”

This is the group’s third avenue they have explored to apply pressure to the University to revert their decision and reinstate swimming and diving moving forward. 

The group has made pleas to the MSU administration and the Board of Trustees to think of the consequences of their decision, which has fallen on deaf ears, according to Michael Balow, a parent of sophomore swimmer Sophia Balow. 

“I would echo everything that the alumni have said about being stonewalled,” Balow said. “All we ask is that we work together with the administration to try to solve whatever problems they have to be told that this is final is a slap in the face to the efforts of all the alumni who have dutifully donated over the years and all the parents who sent their kids there.”

Members of the women’s team filed a Title IX lawsuit against the university, saying that the university is in violation of Title IX laws by cutting the women’s program, which limits opportunities for female athletes in comparison to the overall female undergraduate population at MSU.

The judge ruled against the preliminary injunction to reinstate the program immediately, but that lawsuit will continue and could still result in the reinstatement of the women’s swimming and diving team. 

“It's certainly not ideal that the judge didn't issue the preliminary injunction, but the judge will, and the litigation will continue,” Munley said. “So there's still the very real possibility that once this litigation gets to its conclusion that the judge will find that Michigan State, and we believe this, is in violation of Title IX, it hasn't afforded the equal opportunity to women. But again, that is only part of the story.”

Battle for MSU Swim and Dive said that they are exploring another avenue because they hope to be able to reinstate both programs, not just women’s through the Title IX lawsuit.

The group’s goal for the meeting is to be able to leverage a conversation with MSU administration and Athletic Director Bill Beekman to argue their case because they said they have only been ignored by the university up until this point. 

“I think it's imperative that the university will at least provide this opportunity to have that seat at the table and we're looking for this, the subcommittee,” said Currie. “We're incredibly grateful to Senator LaSata for providing us this opportunity to share our story and ask for their assistance in the matter tomorrow.”

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