Ten candidates are running in the Nov. 3 election for two seats on the University of Michigan Board of Regents. Terms last eight years.
The candidates are incumbent Democratic regents Mark Bernstein and Shauna Ryder Diggs, Republicans Carl Meyers and Sarah Hubbard, Libertarians James L. Hudler and Eric Larson, Green Party candidate Michael Mawilai, U.S. Taxpayers candidates Ronald E. Graeser and Crystal Van Sickle, and Natural Law candidate Keith Butkovich.
The Record contacted each candidate and requested background information and a platform statement. Six responded, and the information they provided is below.
Political affiliation: Democrat
Background: I am a proud product of Michigan’s public education system — from kindergarten to three University of Michigan degrees. As a regent, I have honored my commitment to affordable, exceptional public higher education while promoting values that embrace diversity, honor labor and address climate change. I recently served as the Director of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Transition Office helping to lead efforts related to establishing a new gubernatorial administration. During my work on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, I aggressively investigated the deceptive conduct of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative ballot sponsors, led an examination of migrant worker living conditions, and advocated for contraceptive equity, hate crime legislation, and marriage equality. I am president of The Sam Bernstein Law Firm, a leading plaintiff’s trial firm where I currently represent 63 Michigan municipalities in litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors.
Platform statement: I’m running to protect the promise of public universities by advancing three priorities: 1) Make college more affordable. I have fought to make U-M more affordable for students who struggle to pay tuition. I championed the Go Blue Guarantee that promises free tuition for families with household income less than $65,000 (the median household income in Michigan is approximately $55,000). Net tuition for students from families with household income less than $120,000 is 21% lower than when I was first elected. We have more to do, but we’re making good progress. 2) Reduce Student Debt — Average in-state student debt at graduation has fallen from $28,637 at $22,006. 3) Improve Access for Lower Income Students — The percentage of Pell Grant eligible students has increased from 13.8% in 2009 to 21.0% in 2019. The Go Blue Guarantee is making a positive impact.
Shauna Ryder Diggs
Political affiliation: Democrat
Background: I am a solo private practice physician with two daughters, ages 23 and 19. As the daughter of two university professors, I learned the importance of higher education to our collective futures. My parents both attended U-M for their Ph.D.s and were graduate teaching assistants in the 1960s. I attended U-M in the 1980s for the Inteflex program, a combined 7-year undergraduate and medical school program, then completed an Internal Medicine Internship and Dermatology Residency at U-M.
My past board experiences are varied, including community based non-profits like Forgotten Harvest to historical cultural institutions like the Detroit Institute of Arts and Detroit Zoological Society. As a physician, I served on the Blue Care Network board and as chair of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan Foundation board, supporting healthcare research to improve the lives of Michigan citizens. I serve as board chair of the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities, strengthening higher education governing boards and the strategic roles they serve within their institutions and foundations.
Platform statement: As the daughter of two university professors and proud alumna, I am committed to improving our institution so that it best serves its students, staff, faculty, our state and our broader national and global communities.
My commitment focuses on excellence in academic programs, improved access and affordability, a three-campus strategy with focused investments in the Flint and Dearborn campuses, an inclusive campus culture that protects our community from discrimination and sexual misconduct and research and technologies to help our future. As the first physician regent, I focus on the impact of our large academic healthcare system to comprehensively serve the needs of our state and region.
I value the board roles as a fiduciary, an external voice, and an additional source of expertise and consultation. Our university has accomplished much but much is still yet to be done. I ask for your support and your vote.
Political affiliation: Republican
Background: I’m currently employed as a consultant and have previously worked as an association executive and legislative staffer. My educational background is as follows:
1990 — B.A., Political Science / Psychology, College of LSA, University of Michigan
1994 — Masters of Public Administration, Western Michigan University
2007 — Masters of Business Administration, University of Michigan Ross School of Business
I’m running for the U-M Board of Regents because balance and leadership are sorely needed within that body. I have the experience and skills to provide critical analysis to the issues that come before the Board.
Platform statement: Tuition costs — I will work to address the high costs of tuition at U-M. Tuition should be at a level that allows students to access their education without significant hardship to them and their families.
Free Speech — It’s important to ensure that all voices are heard on campus — both in the classroom and in public debate. I would strive to provide a more open culture and environment for robust debate amongst all views.
Political affiliation: Libertarian
Background: I am a 1996 graduate of U-M with a B.S.E. in nuclear engineering. I have an M.D. and am an anesthesiologist in private practice in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I have a wife and three children with my oldest a freshman at U-M. I was president of my specialty group which has over 200 employees and partners. While president I performed national executive searches, ran contract negotiations, set policy, and dealt with human resources.
Platform statement: I will use my personal and professional background to keep U-M a leader in research and education. It is important that we make the school as accessible as possible to as many Michiganders by keeping it affordable. I believe it is also crucial that we maintain as diverse a university as possible through its faculty and students by encouraging diverging viewpoints. A university of ideas will better prepare our students for the future and help them better know who they want to become.
Political affiliation: Green Party
Background: Michael is a community advocate for Neighbor to Neighbor, a door-to-door campaign to prevent Detroit families and fixed-income individuals from losing homes to tax foreclosure, reducing the number of auctions from 9,118 to less than 700 after its first year. A post-9/11 editorial response he wrote to The Detroit News inspired the creation of a Social Studies lesson from the Michigan Department of Education. As a member of the media team at Standing Rock, he helped create social media awareness, and brought journalistic accountability to the articles being shared, debunking rumors of nightly police raids on the camp as the viral forwarding of undated news from the Oct. 27 raid of the treaty camp which directly blocked the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline’s construction.
Platform statement: Ecological wisdom, Princeton’s divestment from South Africa started the end for apartheid. U-M’s research and $14.4 billion endowment can make the battle against climate change winnable.
Social justice — Professionals representative of their communities improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. Protect the diversity of the student population, and improve graduation rates using sabermetrics to identify real time problems and present solutions.
Grassroots democracy — Asian-Americans are 13.8% of the student population but have never been represented among the Regents. As a student advocate, I would have considered the concerns of the Graduate Employees Organization and Resident Advisors when reopening the school during the pandemic.
Nonviolence — Create a culture against sexual assault and systemic racism without sacrificing campus safety.
Political affiliation: Republican
Background: Carl Meyers has over 38 years of experience in finance. He is presently a Senior Vice President of Investments for Raymond James in Dearborn, Michigan.
Carl is a 1979 graduate of UM-Dearborn, School of Business where he earned a B.S.A.
He is active in the local community and serves on several boards and has held leadership positions. He brings 25 years of board experience and board governance.
Since 2008, Carl has served as volunteer Chairman of Dearborn’s Police and Fire and General Employee’s pension boards with responsibility for administration and plan assets of over $400 million dollars.
Carl has served as a Special Advisor to the Board of Member Focus Credit Union and as Secretary and Board Member from 2012-2019.
He is a past gubernatorial appointee on the Michigan State Police Pension Board.
Carl resides in Dearborn, Michigan, with his wife Mary. They have three children and one granddaughter.
Platform statement: The University of Michigan is facing two of its greatest challenges in modern history, the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic and financial deficits that arose from fighting the virus.
I have three words of advice for the Board and President on the COVID-19 crisis, Test, Test and Test. The Board and President have failed to articulate a clear strategy for bringing students and faculty back to campus in a safe and systematic way. Robust rapid return testing should be the centerpiece of returning to a level of normalcy on campus. Vigorous rapid testing is needed now.
The fallout, and ensuing revenue shortfall from the pandemic shutdown will impact the university for years to come. Thoughtful budget tightening will surely be needed. The challenge will be to balance the budget without impacting the academic excellence and historical reputation of the university.
My 38 years of financial experience in solving complex financial problems and my commitment to transparency position me to make a positive contribution as a Regent at the University of Michigan.