As Chair of this Board, a situation like this is something I never wanted to see. But the situation warranted a meeting like this, as well as the public discussion that surrounds it.
Our Board is limited, by law, on how we can address the situation. Regents are elected by the voters of Michigan. As elected officials ourselves we have the right and, I believe, the obligation to gather in this way and publicly share our views.
While Regents affiliate with political parties, we have not been and must not be a governing body that falls prey to destructive politics. We have found consensus and enacted policy designed to lead in the best interests of this University. We aspire to provide the governance that will allow this institution to continue to fulfill its mission in extraordinarily positive ways.
Today, we are faced with a challenge. We have encountered challenges before and have overcome them.
This challenge is caused by a member of our Board who simply is unable to manage a conflict in his public life. He, as yet, has not corrected the conflict.
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.
We also know that violent words and violent threats lead to violent actions. When everyone in this state found out that the Governor of this state was the target of a kidnapping and murder plot – that should have changed everything. Sadly, it hasn’t.
As our Student Body President and Vice President stated so well:
“There is no place for sentiments that invite and normalize violence against women in a world where over one in three women experience physical violence in their lives. In engaging in said comments and actions, Regent Weiser has demonstrated that he cannot faithfully serve the student body.”
Hiring a security detail should not be in the job description for public service. But now, sadly, it is. That’s because of violent rhetoric and it has to stop.
I’ve taken a look at the people who were attacked and impacted by this. They aren’t just office holders. They are people with families. The statewide elected officials and members of Congress who were the targets of the violent language are mostly connected to this University. They are our alumni. Our donors. Parents of our students. For example, Attorney General Nessel graduated from UM BGS in 1990. Congressman Fred Upton graduated in 1975 with a BA.
Here at the University of Michigan, we should not only condemn these words, we actually teach our students the lifetime value of avoiding them.
Please listen to these titles. These are actual names of classes taught at this University that equip students to live a life of respecting others:
- Values & Ethics in Public Policy,
- Diplomacy and Statecraft,
- Apology, Reconciliation & Reparations,
- Facilitating Dialogue Across Fault Lines,
- Race, Identity & Socio-Cultural Difference,
- Public Management: Leading Across Difference, and lastly,
- Language and Discrimination.
This is who we are and what we aspire to be.
If Ron Weiser truly loves this University, he will put the University first. He will adhere to its values and its teachings and step aside and resign.
I will say again what I said last week – his use of violent imagery crossed a line that is inconsistent with what should be our shared values. There should be no place for physical threats by elected or political leaders on our Board or in our State.
These threats and then his unwillingness to apologize fully and sincerely put the University in an untenable position.
And lastly, as the Regents Emeritus wrote, “ To be clear, Mr. Weiser’s remarks were not ‘taken out of context.’ They are apparently what he believes, and issuing an apology to ‘those I offended’ is a tired cliché which is customarily thrown out when a person isn’t apologetic at all.”