The University of Michigan Board of Regents, a group of eight state-elected members who have general supervision of the University and its endowment, has two seats up for election this Tuesday. Incumbent candidates Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R) and Regent Andrew Richner (R) face stiff competition from Democratic candidates Jordan Acker (D) and Paul Brown (D). In the past, The Michigan Daily Editorial Board and students on campus have often called for transparency from the Board of Regents, and we are excited to see that Acker and Brown both pledge ethics and transparency if they are elected. Along with their concrete plans to increase college affordability and the fresh perspectives they can bring to the board, The Michigan Daily Editorial Board confidently endorses Jordan Acker and Paul Brown for the open positions on the Board of Regents.
Acker stands out as the only candidate to have graduated from the University in the 21st century, yet he still brings significant experience to the job. With the increasing unaffordability of a University education being a major issue for the regents, we believe that Acker understands the realities of how students manage to pay for an education in 2018 and will bring a necessary perspective to the board. He has channeled this perspective into advocating specifically for a debt-free education for all students, representing the experience of many of his classmates, who he said graduated with a debt burden unseen in previous generations.
As a former White House staffer and adviser to the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, Acker is well-versed on making decisions that impact the lives of millions. We are excited to see much of the ingenuity he brings to his platform, including a desire to broaden the reach of the University through extension schools throughout the state. He also is a strong advocate for increased transparency, co-authoring a 10-point plan with fellow Democratic candidate Paul Brown calling for board meetings to be more accessible to the public, rejecting campaign donations from those with business relationships with the University and other transparency reforms.
In addition to his work on the 10-point plan, Paul Brown also possesses an array of experience that makes him a superb and qualified candidate. As the only union member running, we believe Brown maintains a unique and important perspective that could be used as a regent. Brown is a proud member of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization, a group that has been influencing great change within our University. Brown has also served as a collaborator for various public, private, not-for-profit, for-profit, start-up and public boards. Through his positions, he has not only gained experience, but demonstrated his ability to actually provide results. Brown has a deep understanding of private-public financing, and under President Obama and the U.S. Department of Treasury, he helped implement the $1.5 billion State Small Business Credit Initiative, which has helped create more than 240,000 jobs with no cost to taxpayers.
We are eager to witness Brown impart similar creativity and diligence in the position of regent. Brown’s focus is on making the University more affordable, but still an economic powerhouse. He is aware of its profitable and influential reach, and plans to increase accessibility through decreasing tuition rates and broadening its economic and social impact throughout the state. Brown hopes to implement a bill similar to Texas, where any student graduating in the top 10 percent of their class is assured automatic admission to the public universities in their state. In addition, he wants to expand the University’s Summer Bridge Scholars Program in order to increase and maintain socioeconomic diversity within the University. Finally, he is an advocate for educational policy change in the state, showing his desire to use the position as a mechanism for greater change. For these reasons and his pledge for transparency, we endorse Paul Brown for the position of regent.
Fischer Newman is one of two incumbent regents, and she has served on the board for more than 20 years — first elected in 1994, and re-elected in 2002 and 2010. Fischer Newman’s experience does not fall short in the public sector, as she has served as the Special Counsel to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Logistics under President Ronald Reagan as well as being appointed to the Department of Education’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, among other high-profile positions. However, Fischer Newman’s experience here does not necessarily imply future success as a University regent, especially in an educational climate where students demand affordability and transparency.
Moreover, Fischer Newman has exhibited skepticism over new policies aimed at the inclusion of more minority students in the admissions process, saying that she “has some concerns” about the possibility of including a Middle East/North African identity choice on applications and forms — a move that would encourage more minority students to apply to the University. Ultimately, it is time for a change that welcomes more open-minded, progressive regents who will vouch for the issues that matter most to students and the state of Michigan as a whole.
Incumbent Richner would not agree with this sentiment, telling The Daily that he thinks, “… it’s important that we have some of us on (the Board of Regents) that come to the table with more conservative viewpoints.” Further, Richner has consistently voted in favor of tuition increases and been vague on statements regarding affordability, only mentioning past initiatives such as the Go Blue Guarantee but not offering future solutions for the ever-increasing tuition.
It is time for the Board of Regents to see some fresh faces with a passion and a concrete plan for increasing transparency and affordability. The Michigan Daily Editorial Board believes Paul Brown and Jordan Acker exemplify these qualities and endorses them for the University of Michigan Board of Regents.
For a full list of The Michigan Daily Editorial Board’s endorsements for the 2018 midterm elections, click here.