Regent Weiser, I appreciate your apology, but your apology does not release my responsibility to hold you accountable nor does it minimize the importance of strongly affirming our university’s values. 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.
But this special meeting is as unprecedented in our 200-year history as it is unavoidable.
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. It wasn’t a slip of the tongue, it is a strategy. Threatening rhetoric has no place in even the most partisan circumstances.
While Regent Weiser’s conduct occurred in the political arena the harm it causes goes far beyond politics.
This type of speech damages the very fabric of our democracy and therefore our university.
Permitting violent misogynistic rhetoric only enables more violent misogynistic rhetoric. We cannot permit this type of speech to become normalized by our silence. We have seen how hateful, reckless, repugnant views can move slowly, incrementally, from the margins toward the middle of our society. We tolerate this destructive direction at our own peril.
That’s why today, I am saying, my colleagues are saying, and this university is saying enough is enough!
Regent Weiser’s conduct has real consequences, and that is why we publicly and forcefully condemn it.
We simply cannot ignore this conduct.
Not if we are a university that takes its mission seriously. Not if we respect all of our students – especially women – on our campuses. Not if we value our faculty who address the most complex, consequential and frequently controversial challenges of our time with respect for and decency towards their colleagues.
We cannot tolerate this dangerous vitriol. Not in a state where the FBI thwarted a plot to kidnap and murder our governor (one of three women who Regent Weiser called a “witch” – who along with our Attorney General and Secretary of State — he said should be “burned at the stake.”). No! No more! Not here! Not now! Not ever!
As a university, it is our job to elevate our understanding of ourselves and our world. What light can we shine on this moment? Indeed, since 1895, a lamp of knowledge has appeared on the seal of our university. So what can we teach our state and society right now?
I believe we must teach two important lessons:
1. That words matter – even in our deeply divided nation we must address our differences in ways and with words that create more light than heat.
2. That power matters – as regents, while we must respect each other’s freedom of speech and acknowledge the higher protection that political speech must have, we must at this same time recognize the higher responsibility we have as leaders for our own speech.
In the end, this is a moment of accountability and affirmation. Today, we hold ourselves accountable for our words. And reckon with our responsibilities as leaders.
And in doing so we affirm the values of our beloved university.