April 1, 2021
Over a century ago, the framers of the Michigan Constitution created an eight-person Board of Regents to have “general supervision” of the University of Michigan.
We are emeritus members of the Board. We come from diverse personal and professional backgrounds. We haven’t always agreed on matters of finance and the like. We do all agree that being a Regent means having, in essence, a fiduciary responsibility for the University and its community. The Regents’ responsibilities include creating a community where justice, dignity, respect, anti-racism, diversity and inclusion, decency and civility are its fundamental core values. The University is deeply committed to those values. We, too, have all been — and remain — committed to those values and that type of community.
Given the context in which we have worked for many years, we were appalled to hear Regent Ron Weiser’s remarks delivered in his capacity as Chair of the Michigan Republican Party. As has been widely reported, he described Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson as three witches and referred to their being burned at the stake. Showing a perverse political evenhandedness, Mr. Weiser went on to speculate that assassination could be a way to remove Republican Congressmen Fred Upton and Peter Meijer from office because of their vote to impeach President Trump. This casual incitement to violence also runs counter to UM’s institutional values.
To be clear, no matter how much we find Mr. Weiser’s remarks to be abhorrent, he has a First Amendment right to his views. That doesn’t mean that if he believes that he is free to denigrate women with whom he disagrees by calling them “witches” and if he encourages assassination as a way to deal with honorable men of his own party with whom he disagrees he should retain the privilege of remaining a fiduciary for a great university. That is why we are joining many others in calling for his resignation.
The University of Michigan is committed to the education and advancement of women. Here in Michigan, the voters in 2018 elected three talented women to lead our state. Over two million people voted for each of them. Despite their numerous achievements, to hear a Regent casually denigrate them as witches perpetuates gross, sexist stereotypes that are repugnant and unacceptable. Making those remarks while occupying a position of public trust dignifies and, for some, validates sentiments that we know are just plain malignant. If we don’t denounce them for what they are, who will? And if the University community doesn’t denounce Mr. Weiser’s remarks and apparent attitudes, how will we look our young women students who justifiably aspire to greatness in the eye? We must actively repair the damage he has done to our women students by his malevolent sexism in trying to brand the top three executive leaders of our state as “witches.”
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. They are merely in hot water!
We take, at face value, that Mr. Weiser cares about the University of Michigan. He has been a generous donor to it. That makes this unfortunate situation sad. We ask Mr. Weiser to show his ongoing commitment to the University’s role, mission and wellbeing by resigning from the Board. We understand that may be tough for him to do, but, given his recent remarks, we believe that it is also the only honorable course of action available to him.
Paul Brown Sr.
Julia Donovan Darlow
Laurence B. Deitch
Shauna Ryder Diggs
Olivia P. Maynard
Philip H. Power