U-M board votes to censure Regent Ron Weiser

The University of Michigan Board of Regents voted in a special meeting April 2 to censure one of its own members — Ronald Weiser — for calling three top state leaders “witches” and suggesting they be burned at the stake.

The resolution of censure, an official statement of disapproval, said members of the Board of Regents “condemn in the strongest possible language the behavior of Regent Weiser, his language, and the actions taken therein, and call on Regent Weiser to resign from the Board of Regents.”

The vote came just a week after Weiser, who was elected Republican state party chair in February, made the comments at a GOP meeting where he also referenced “assassination” when discussing two Michigan GOP members of Congress who voted to impeach President Donald Trump.

Weiser was elected to an eight-year term on the Board of Regents in 2016.

Voting in favor of the resolution were the five Democrats present for the virtual meeting: Jordan B. Acker, Michael J. Behm, Mark J. Bernstein, Paul W. Brown and Denise Ilitch. Republicans Weiser and Sarah Hubbard abstained. Democrat Katherine E. White was absent.

It was the first time in the university’s more-than-200-year history that a member of its governing board has been censured.

Video of the April 2, 2021, special meeting of the U-M Board of Regents.

The vote followed 25 minutes of statements from regents, starting with Weiser, who told his colleagues he regrets his remarks, but he would not resign.

“As a university regent, I take full responsibility for what I said, and I am sorry and regret my poorly chosen words that were offhand remarks made at a private Republican Party meeting,” Weiser said. “I agree with part of this resolution, but I will not resign.

“I pledge to be part of a respectful dialogue going forward and challenge my colleagues and others to do the same. I will not be canceled.”

Weiser, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business from U-M in 1966, is one of the university’s most generous donors, having committed more than $120 million to many different programs at the university.

Ilitch, the board’s chair, said, “Each of us as regents knows that when we were elected to these positions, our fiduciary responsibility is to the University of Michigan. But it’s more than that. We must always represent and serve the university as long as we are in office. We can’t just turn that on and off. It’s always on.

“It has become clear that serving as chair of a statewide political party is simply not compatible with serving on this board. And the situation is only likely to intensify as we get closer to the 2022 elections and the state party chair becomes more and more of a public focal point.”

Acker said Weiser had betrayed the U-M community with what he called his “dangerous rhetoric.” He said Weiser contributed to the culture of violence with his words. But he also said he hoped that Weiser would “take the steps to fix the damage that you’ve caused to our community, to our campuses, to our board, and to our institution.”

Bernstein said, “The only thing worse than convening this meeting to censure Regent Weiser and call for his resignation would be to not censure him and not call for his resignation.

“It would be easy to dismiss Regent Weiser’s remarks as just partisan politics as usual or a mere slip of the tongue. But this conduct cannot become politics as usual. Violent threatening rhetoric should have no place in even the most partisan circumstances,” he said.

Behm challenged Weiser and the state Republican Party he leads to find ways to support, not undermine, the democratic process.

“Members of your party, last week, filed 39 bills that serve to suppress and silence voters. This is how autocracies and authoritarian regimes take hold; freedoms of citizens to express themselves are eroded and eventually disappear,” Behm said.

“In the height of irony, while you, through your words and your party’s actions, act to exclude Michigan citizens from the democratic process, the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies is convening an emergency roundtable discussion next Tuesday. Its title: ‘Submerging Democracy in America’s States.’”

Brown called Weiser’s comments “misogynistic, divisive and reckless” and said that anyone who would “unrepentantly engage in such speech should not remain in public office, especially at an institution like the University of Michigan, which so values upholding gender equality and protection of women’s rights.”

Hubbard, the only other Republican on the board, said she did not agree with the language Weiser used in reference to other public officials. “As a newly elected public official I expect respect and professionalism when others contact and reference me in my role as regent. Other public officials should expect the same treatment. 

“I look forward to getting back to addressing the important issues facing the university such as the need to constantly strive for academic excellence and focusing on student needs,” Hubbard said.

Following the vote, Ilitch, in her capacity as board chair, announced a reorganization of board committees that stripped Weiser of his committee assignments. He had been serving on the finance, audits and investments committee, and the regional campuses committee.

Ilitch also acknowledged the hundreds of email messages and phone calls board members and university officials have received as well as the public statements made regarding Weiser’s remarks.

“We have heard your views and we take them very seriously,” she said. 


  1. Camron Amin
    on April 5, 2021 at 7:25 am

    Regent Weiser should make amends with substantial fundraising efforts for Women and Gender Studies programs on all three campuses. Any resulting initiatives funded by these donations could be named by the specific individuals he offended. He should still resign and give the voters a chance to select someone else (I have no doubt he would offer his own candidacy again and, sadly, would have a better-than-zero chance of being restored to a position of trust and honor.). I wish his offenses were limited only to his insulting comments about elected state officials. At least as serious was his support for the seditious (and racist) assault on our the Capitol on January 6th. It’s amazing that a university system that was singleminded in unconstitutionally rooting out communist sympathizers during the Cold War just can’t find a legal way to liberate itself from sexists and racists now. Leaders and Best indeed.

  2. David Blair
    on April 5, 2021 at 8:32 am

    Unfortunately being in prominent positions require that words should be chosen carefully,
    especially in this time of cell phones, access to media platforms and people with specific agendas infiltrating semi private or private events.

    I do recall an active specific U.S. rep in Detroit at a private function having some profane language leak out referring to the POTUS.

    So watch what you say in these very touchy times regardless of the “home” crowd.

    Does this rise to the level of resignation? No. If this was printed on official letterhead from the university for public consumption, now we have a discussion.

  3. Gregory Maxwell
    on April 5, 2021 at 10:35 am

    Mr Weiser’s crude and violent language toward those he disrespects (burnings, assassination) is repellent and merits his expulsion from the board.

    Worse, though, are his words and actions in service of promoting the fiction that voter fraud played a role in the electoral defeat of the former President. These caustic lies are an assault on our democracy and the integrity of our voting processes. With these intentional falsehoods Mr Weiser puts his personal political agenda and lack of integrity on full display.

    His promotion of fallacies and un-truths is directly counter to the foundational principles and educational mission of the institution. His refusal to acknowledge the base and violent nature (and intent) of his words clearly illustrates Mr Weiser’s contempt for objective truth and personal integrity – foundational values that our university works to promote and instill in our students. Such dishonesty and absence of principles should find no comfort or home within the University of Michigan leadership.

    Greg Maxwell
    Michigan Medicine

  4. Deborah Rutherford
    on April 5, 2021 at 11:20 am

    As a UMich Alumni and a healthcare employee of Michigan Medicine, I am appalled at Regent Weiser’s behavior and comments towards democratically elected officials of the State of Michigan. Simply because they are from the opposite party and female, does not give him the right to defame them and certainly does not give him the authority to threaten them with burning at the stake. Additionally, threatening two US Congressional Representatives, from his own party, because they voted their conscience for an impeachment, is reprehensible. He does not represent the University of Michigan with any accuracy or credibility. He simply reveals his white and male privilege and his threatened ego by demeaning our duly-elected female leaders.

    Debbie Rutherford
    Michigan Medicine

  5. Theodore Hall
    on April 5, 2021 at 2:16 pm

    Here’s a link to a Detroit News page with a video of Ron Weiser’s actual comments (you might have to suffer through a couple of ads first). Turn the volume up to hear the audience questioning Weiser.


    Click the “Read more about the incident” link:


    Compared to his audience, he actually comes across as moderate.

    The questioner is upset about two Michigan Republican congressmen, Upton and Meijer, who voted to impeach Trump, and wants to know what the Party is going to do to remove them. Weiser says repeatedly that they were democratically elected and the only way to remove them is to vote them out of office. He quips, “other than by assassination,” but he’s clearly not calling for that. However, in light of recent events, it was a very bad joke.

    He casually refers to the Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, as the “three witches.” According to the Detroit News article, he quipped (not included in the video): “Our job now is to soften up those three witches and make sure that when we have good candidates to run against them, that they are ready for the burning at the stake.”

    To read only the headlines, and the reaction to what he said, without seeing the actual video, one might imagine that he was seriously advocating violence. Watching the video and reading the News article is quite the opposite, for me anyway. He’s clearly simply advocating to vote them out of office. The “burn” bit is a metaphor, not much different from the catchphrase “ya burnt” popularized by certain late night comedians.

    In a former era, that kind of talk would have been seen as typical partisan political hyperbole. This country has a 230 year tradition of such. George Washington hadn’t finished his first term before the Jeffersonians and Hamiltonians started attacking each other viciously.

    Alas, in the current era, with a recent actual plot to kidnap and assassinate the Governor, a riot at the Capitol to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, and everyone being a “mobile phone journalist,” politicians need to be much more careful about how they express themselves — even (especially) to partisan zealots.

    Some of the Regent’s invocations of John McCain were spot-on: Weiser missed an opportunity to lead the partisans back away from such language. But to characterize his comments as advocating kidnapping and insurrection is not accurate, in my opinion.

  6. Bruce SKINNER
    on April 5, 2021 at 3:46 pm

    I totally agree with Regent Denise Ilitch, “Each of us as regents knows that when we were elected to these positions, our fiduciary responsibility is to the University of Michigan. But it’s more than that. We must always represent and serve the university as long as we are in office. We can’t just turn that on and off. It’s always on.” Every leader at the university must behave in a very adult manner at all times regardless of the situation. I wonder what Regent Weiser and those who support him would think if someone in a prominent position referred to the Capital rioters in a way that demeaned Caucasian people.

  7. Theodore Hall
    on April 5, 2021 at 4:28 pm

    I’m a bit mystified why the elections of university regents, trustees, etc., are on the partisan section of the ballot, and not the non-partisan section (with the judicial elections etc.). The placement on the ballot and explicit categorization of candidates practically demands partisanship.

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