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This article is part of a Michigan Daily series profiling four of the candidates seeking a seat on the Board of Regents this November at the University of Michigan.
Carl Meyers is in the middle of his third campaign for regent at the University of Michigan. Meyers also made a bid in 2014 but didn’t get enough votes at the Republican State Convention to get through to the general election.
He hasn’t changed his message much since his first campaign in 2004, and he said he feels his policies are more relevant than ever.
“I ran for the Board of Regents in 2004 predicting that if we didn’t slow the growth of the budget and put Michigan families and Michigan students first … that many middle-class families would be priced out of higher education, (which) would severely impact diversity, inclusion and access,” Meyers said. “Here we are in the middle of a pandemic, and shame on the (Board of Regents) for raising tuition … and shame on the administration.”
Meyers took several opportunities to discuss the 1.9-percent tuition increase approved over the summer and said he has made access to higher education a theme of his campaign. His goals include a tuition freeze and a rollback of this year’s increase.
When discussing the practicality of his tuition freeze, Meyers pointed to his background as a financial adviser, saying his experience on nonprofit boards and with investments makes him more qualified than the current board. He said he would push for a larger portion of the endowment to be distributed to meet operating expenses in addition to finding inefficiencies throughout the University. Currently, 4.5 percent of its value is distributed annually.
“U of M is … a massive hospital system, a massive sports complex, a massive academic (operation),” Meyers said. “It’s inherent with any operation that there are opportunities to become more efficient. I’m not saying you’ve got to cut, but I’m saying you’ve got to operate with a heck of a lot more efficiency.”
Meyers said Regents don’t focus enough on cutting student costs.
“It’s going to take a seismic cultural change to do that, and I think COVID is going to be the impetus for that,” Meyers said.
Meyers graduated from U-M Dearborn and would be the only regent who graduated from that campus. He believes the Flint and Dearborn campuses are being undervalued.
“The Dearborn campus is a jewel … the Flint campus is a jewel because (they offer) Michigan residents the opportunity to get a … University of Michigan education without a lot of the expense that goes with the room, the board, the housing and the big campus,” Meyers said. “The problem is they’re treated as satellite or extension campuses and not treated as part of a system. … I think we need greater transportability between the two campuses. I think we need to fund the Flint and Dearborn campuses to the extent that it’s financially possible because this is where Michigan residents can go.”
Meyers said he fully supports the recent extension of legal and telehealth services to students on the Flint campus, and he wants to see it expanded to the Dearborn campus. He also called for a reduction in the out-of-state population on the Ann Arbor campus to allow more Michigan residents to attend.
Generally, Meyers said he feels issues that come before the Board of Regents don’t line up with traditionally conservative or liberal viewpoints, but he said he feels free speech was an area where his conservative background would come into play.
“I think it’s wrong that this campus is not a safe space for every type of thought out there,” Meyers said. “There’s no reason that just because you disagree with somebody or disagree with a professor that you can’t have an honest and fruitful conversation. It really emanates from the top down. (Schlissel) was very clear with his dog whistle in sending the thought out that after the last election, that, you know, the general public got it wrong and that those who voted for Hillary Clinton got it right, and then it was off to the races.”
After President Donald Trump won the 2016 general election, Schlissel spoke to students who rallied on the Diag in protest. During the rally, Schlissel commended the vast majority of students who voted for Hillary Clinton, setting off controversy among conservative students who said Schlissel’s comments made them feel unwelcome on campus.
Schlissel’s emails during and following the 2016 election, which were released through a FOIA settlement with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, showed that Schlissel felt anxious about a Trump presidency. After the 2016 election, Schlissel also sent an email to the campus community re-emphasizing the importance of inclusion and working together across ideological differences.
Meyers said he does not support wholesale divestment at this time, citing concerns about the University’s ability to support students financially. Instead, he said he supports countering potentially harmful investments in fossil fuels with investments that are “good for the entire society” such as those in environmental, social and corporate governance.
Regarding the pandemic itself, Meyers criticized the University’s controversial reopening plan, saying there still isn’t a sufficiently clear and safe strategy in place. He also called on the administration to significantly increase testing, specifically calling for rapid testing to be deployed campuswide.
Looking forward, Meyers said he’ll do his best to continue to safely share his message with Michigan voters in the midst of the pandemic.
“You can’t go to rallies or anything,” Meyers said. “I’m not going to do that. That’s not smart. So, you know, it’s kind of a lonely outpost. You’re on your computer, you’re on your phone. I’m doing Zoom calls. I’m doing two or three of them every day with media outlets and radio and interviews and stuff like that. So, anything you can do to get the word out that’s the way you do it. … When I’m running, I’m always thinking about the students and families because that’s the whole reason we’re here.”
Daily Staff Reporter Dominic Coletti can be reached at email@example.com.
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