Tea Party candidates announce plans to run for Board of Regents

Todd Needle/Daily
The Willow Run Tea Party caucus hosts a small gathering to introduce the party's candidate's for the 'U' Board of Regents 2012 election at the Big Sky Diner in Ypsilanti, Mich. on Friday, Oct. 7, 2011. Buy this photo

Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 9, 2011

YPSILANTI, Mich. — Once dinner rush subsided here at Big Sky Diner on Friday, Willow Run Tea Party Caucus candidates for the University’s Board of Regents took over the restaurant to introduce their platforms and initiatives to establish a more conservative board.

The three candidates funded by the Tea Party — Dan Horning, Bill Kauffman and Rob Steele — spoke at the event and talked about the need to address skyrocketing tuition, reintroduce a conservative voice on the board and ensure that the University’s admissions policies are fair and equal.

Horning, who held a position on the board from 1994 to 2002, began his speech by discussing how caucus members have the opportunity to even the playing field on the liberal-dominated board.

The University’s Board of Regents consists of eight members, two of which are up for re-election biannually. The current board has six Democratic members and two Republican members, and two of the eight positions will be up for re-election during the state-wide election next November.

Horning said there is a lack of tolerance for the conservative minority on the board, and he hopes that with strong candidates, Republicans can gain the power to make decisions at the University.

“It’s critical that we get two great candidates that can win a year from now, because the first thing we can do is lock it up, and then the second thing we can do two years from now is take control,” Horning said.

Horning said that when he held his position on the board, he did not agree with the board’s decision to provide health benefits for same-sex couples, and he still does not approve.

“I wasn’t against it because I’m a gay-basher, I was against it because I’m a fiscal conservative, and it doesn’t make sense to spend expenditures for benefits for one group of people that you’re not doing for another,” he said.

Additionally, Horning said he is against affirmative action and the University’s decision to allow Graduate Student Research Assistants to unionize. If elected, he would like to institute a flat tuition plan in which University students would pay the same amount per credit hour for all four years.

Bill Kauffman, a former University professor of aerospace engineering, spoke about the need for increased transparency at the University.

Kauffman said he would hire someone to audit the University’s finances, which he alleges has not been done since the 1980s.

Kauffman added that if he were elected, he would propose a policy in which the top 10 percent of Michigan high school students would be automatically accepted to the University.

“It’s your university, and you have the right to get in. There have to be limits on out-of-state and out-of-country enrollments,” Kauffman said.

The next candidate to speak was Rob Steele, a former assistant clinical professor, who is a University undergraduate and Medical School alum. He echoed Kauffman’s sentiments that it is too difficult for in-state students to be accepted to the University, adding that financial aid funding should be prioritized to students from Michigan.

“We need to make sure that qualified students from the state of Michigan are enrolled, and we need to make sure that the financial aid that’s available doesn’t get spent on the out-of-state and foreign-born students,” Steele said.

In an interview after the event, Steele said even though his views are conservative, he doesn’t identify with a political party and considers most of the issues discussed at the meeting to be non-partisan.

“Oversight, following the rules and engaging in protecting the future of the University — I don’t see that as Republican or Democrat at all,” Steele said. “The people on the extremes prevent the problems from getting fixed.”

Kauffman said in an interview after the event that a new administration is needed at the University in order to change its priorities.

“We’re taking on the establishment,” Kauffman said. “I know the deficiencies at U of M, and I think I know the corrections.”

Correction appended:A previous version of this article incorrectly misidentified Doug Smith, a University alum, as the third candidate for regent for the Willow Run Tea Party Caucus that spoke at the event.