Editor’s note: The Michigan Daily has also provided endorsements for other races on the Ann Arbor ballot this November. You can find them all here.
With regards to the upcoming University of Michigan’s Board of Regents election, The Michigan Daily’s Editorial Board unanimously endorses incumbents Mark Bernstein (D) and Shauna Ryder Diggs (D). This unanimous decision was by and large the result of how their talking points directly concern issues affecting students in the University community across all three campuses. There are some key areas where Bernstein and Ryder Diggs contrast with the other candidates’ viewpoints on the issues.
Bernstein infamously championed the Go Blue Guarantee while voting in favor of increasing tuition this year — one of his key talking points in response to a recent survey. While Bernstein claims tuition increases only affect those who can already afford to pay tuition, there is the lingering question of what Bernstein means when he says he’s championed the Go Blue Guarantee. The board noted that expanding the Go Blue Guarantee could possibly do more to increase affordability for the University’s high-quality education.
However, Bernstein maintains he and Ryder Diggs are united in favor of “aggressively advanc(ing their) Democratic vision for affordable, accessible and excellent public higher education, while embracing diversity, honoring labor and protecting the environment.” When addressing months of public concern about the University’s environmental impacts in February, he announced the board would freeze any new investments in fossil fuels and reevaluate any ongoing investments in the same. In that meeting, Bernstein also advocated for the University’s consideration of aligning its capital projects with one of its stated long-term goals — to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2030.
One possible point of contention leading up to the Regents’ election is Bernstein’s withdrawal of a $3 million donation to the Trotter Multicultural Center in July 2016 to prevent the building form bearhing his name. Bernstein has stated that his decision to withdraw the donation was in response to concerns expressed by members of the University community — concerns that notably included the fact that the Center is the only building on campus named after an African American (it honors activist and newspaper editor William Monroe Trotter). Bernstein has stated his intention was not to “diminish or erase” Trotter’s legacy.
Ryder Diggs has also discussed how she championed the Go Blue Guarantee before its inception. Further, she’s spoken at length about why she’s an advocate for its expansion, citing concerns about and the importance of the University’s affordability. Her own experiences with taking out loans to afford the University — Ryder Diggs attended the University for college, medical school and residency — as well as her being raised by two University professors, have played a major role in the formation of her views on public education. In accordance to her stated views, Ryder Diggs voted against the recent tuition increase.
With regards to public comment at board meetings, in a December 2019 meeting where Climate Action Movement and One University members expressed their frustrations due to a lack of response to their concerns, Ryder Diggs was the only regent to respond to them directly. She noted the board does take into account public comment and sympathized with their positions. This is perhaps in step with how she’s emphasized her support for the One University movement’s goal — equitable funding across all three campuses. Ryder Diggs also noted she is a firm supporter of and believer in organized labor, adding she “believe(s) in the power of collective bargaining.”
The Board of Regents is a powerful group at the University that must have members with the entire University of Michigan community’s interests at heart. The Michigan Daily Editorial Board believes that Bernstein and Ryder Diggs are the most capable of the candidates to address our University’s many needs and endorses Bernstein and Ryder Diggs for the Board of Regents.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.
For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.