**Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to note that Weiser would be up for re-election in 2024, not 2022.
At a March 25 gathering with the North Oakland Republican Club, Regent Ron Weiser (R) called three female Democratic officials “witches” and referenced “burning them at the stake.” He also joked that the only way to get rid of two anti-Trump Republican congressmen, besides voting, was assassination. On April 2, the University’s Board of Regents censured him and called for his resignation, leading Chairwoman Denise Ilitch (D) to strip him of his committee assignments. On campus, his actions have led to the mock renaming of Weiser Hall and many have called for his resignation.
This is far from the first time Weiser has spurred outrage with his words and actions, not only on campus but across the state of Michigan. His misbehavior has ranged from sending regents an email containing only a picture of a woman wearing a bikini with no context to urging fellow regents to support him during earlier calls for his resignation, prompting them to “remember Germany in the 1930s.” Weiser also faced backlash for his initial response to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and failure to condemn former President Donald Trump. He has failed to attend a single regents meeting in 2021, other than the meeting in which he was censured. It is obvious that his continuing to serve on the Board of Regents undermines the University of Michigan’s character, and if he cared about the University he would resign from his position immediately.
Nevertheless, he has made it clear that he has no intention of doing so, accusing those calling for his resignation of engaging in cancel culture. In light of this, we have chosen not to write this editorial to call for his resignation, as such an attempt would obviously be futile.
Instead, we implore our state’s voters — the people who elected Weiser to this position of power — to more heavily scrutinize future candidates for the Board of Regents, at this university and others, and consider how they might affect the universities and the state of Michigan at large. The only avenue to remove Weiser prior to the 2024 election is an unrealistic one — The Daily’s article regarding calls for a resignation states, “(Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn) Benson would have to file an official petition. No later than 25 days following the filing of the petition, Benson would then have to declare if the petition has enough signatures for a recall or not. To trigger a recall election, the number of signatures on the petition needs to equal 25% of votes cast by Michigan residents in the 2020 general election.” Therefore, voters must think critically about who they cast their ballot for in 2024.
The content of Weiser’s remarks has been specifically harmful and in a politically divisive atmosphere like the one we live in today, any semblance of violence should be avoided. There have been several acute instances of political violence, and threats of political violence, in the past year, ranging from a right-wing plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last fall to the armed riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6. It has even happened recently here in Ann Arbor. A week ago, a group of right-wing “boogaloo bois,” armed with large rifles, planted themselves in front of Ann Arbor’s city hall in an anti-government protest, despite cold reception from the community. Though this thankfully did not escalate into a larger conflict, the fact that it is normal in America for armed protestors to congregate outside of government buildings represents the deeply toxic political environment that exists in our country. Even in a time of political tranquility, it would be abhorrent for a member of our Board of Regents to joke about assassinating members of the government. The fact that violence is seen as a valid means of political action by so many only underscores why Weiser’s charade was so dangerous.
Weiser’s use of the term “witches” is particularly problematic since this misogynistic word has historically been used to undermine influential women. In 2016, people circulated images online of Hillary Clinton dressed in a black hat and holding a broomstick. The term is harmful because it connotes an evil figure who should not be trusted, so when someone uses it to describe a powerful woman, such as Gov. Whitmer, they are undermining the legitimacy of the referenced woman’s power. And when someone as influential as Weiser uses this sexist terminology, he gives his listeners the language not just to criticize the government — which should be encouraged in any democratic society — but to take it a step further and delegitimize the governor’s power on the basis of her gender, a reprehensible and ominous message.
During the board’s meeting, Weiser apologized for his comments but pointedly refused to resign, saying instead that he would “not be canceled.” This refusal to resign demonstrates that, at best, Weiser misunderstands the harm his comments caused, and, at worst, that he values the power that comes with being a regent more than his responsibility to the University’s students and the state’s voters.
In electing Weiser as an administrative member of its second-largest university, Michigan voters gave him a legitimate prominent platform on which to speak as a public official. Everything Weiser does are the actions of a representative of Michigan, rather than the actions of a single citizen. The comments would be problematic even if they came from a private citizen, but in being uttered by a University Regent — and the Michigan GOP chair — those comments will travel further and be more harmful to the well-being of democracy in Michigan. In removing Weiser from his position as a regent, his constituents have the ability to demonstrate there will be repercussions for the flagrant and anti-democratic language he perpetuated.
It is obvious that Weiser should resign. He has repeatedly acted in ways that are entirely unbecoming of a regent, and these latest remarks, with their harmful connotations, are simply the icing on the cake. His reprehensible comments are rooted in misogyny and a clear disregard for democratic values, and these actions have and will continue to negatively impact the Michigan community. However, given that Weiser appears entirely content to remain on the Board of Regents until he goes up for reelection in 2024, it is important to remember the power that voters have.
Both University students and Michigan residents should maintain high standards and demand more from their representatives. Though the Board of Regents may not be the highest-profile election on the ballot, voters should keep Weiser’s actions in mind as we approach the 2024 elections and choose candidates accordingly.