From the Daily: Ilitch, Deitch for Regents

Sunday, October 30, 2016 - 7:27pm

Next week, the residents of the state of Michigan, including any student registered to vote in the state, will be voting on two open positions on the University of Michigan Board of Regents. According to Michigan’s State Constitution, the Board of Regents maintains a “general supervision” of the University and directs the funds and expenditures for each year. For their focus on an increasingly inclusive campus climate and on sensible finances for the University, which we believe best exemplifies the responsibility the Constitution requires of regents, we endorse the two incumbents, Denise Ilitch (D–Bingham Farms) and Laurence Deitch (D–Bloomfield Hills) for the two positions on the University’s Board of Regents up for election on Nov. 8.

Ilitch stands out for voting against tuition increases six times during her past eight years as regent. She has called both on the state of Michigan to increase education funding and for the creation of a campus commission to explore alternative sources of revenue for the University aside from state funding. Her extensive background in business also adds important fiscal experience to the board. She wants to “get a lid on tuition” as the best way to address issues of campus diversity.

In addition to her passionate advocacy for an affordable college education, Ilitch has worked throughout her career to address critical social issues that affect students on campus. She has been on the Board of Directors of the NAACP’s Detroit Branch and serves as an advisory board member for the American Civil Liberties Union. As a regent, she has been an advocate for increasing awareness about campus sexual assault and was supportive of University initiatives strengthening the University's sexual misconduct policy. This is especially important in context of the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights 2014 investigation into the University violating Title IX. Furthermore, she has expressed an interest in growing regent-student contact, which is critical for regents to make informed decisions about what is best for the University community

Many of the benefits of having Ilitch remain on the Board of Regents are echoed in the career history and past policy initiatives of co-incumbent, Laurence Deitch.

Deitch is currently the longest-serving regent, and though we understand why there may be the assumption that he is out of touch with student life — as he has now served longer than many students have been alive — we believe he remains aware of the campus environment and issues that are important for students. Like Ilitch, Deitch has students’ financial interests in mind, having focused on increasing financial aid for students and looking for alternative funding options for the University. During his tenure, tuition increases of 3.9 percent for in-state students and 4.4 percent for out-of-state students was matched with a 10.8-percent increase in undergraduate financial aid, in part because of Deitch’s advocacy. Even though increases in financial aid do not completely counteract tuition increases, Deitch has continuously searched for alternative solutions, such as boosting summer and spring term enrollment, to keep tuition as low as possible. Because of his past efforts, we have faith that he will continue work like this in the future.

In addition to being financially minded, Deitch also prioritizes social issues on campus. A self-claimed advocate for students’ right to free speech, Deitch has also consistently advocated for diversity within the University, first through his co-leadership of the 1993 effort to add sexual orientation to the University's anti-discrimination policy, and most recently through his support for the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Strategic Plan, with reference to the postings of fliers targeting minority students on campus as evidence for the need to call the campus together.

Ilitch and Deitch face eight challengers this year. The two Republican challengers, Ron Weiser and Carl Meyers, might have been the only viable other options among the eight because of their finance-mindedness and their emphasis on increased interaction between regents and students. However, both candidates’ stances on improving the campus climate for students with marginalized identities — critical for a member of the governing board for the University — leave something to be desired.

Weiser, a generous donor to the University, has run on a platform of lowering tuition, increasing transparency of the Board of Regents, creating regent office hours and investing more in the Dearborn and Flint campuses. He has also voiced support for the creation of a student regent position and was critical of President Schlissel’s recent pay raise. While these efforts are commendable, past comments and parts of his platform are causes for concern. In 2012, Weiser faced criticism for using racist steretypes degrading Detroit voters, which reflects negatively on his ability to represent the student body. In addition, he says in his platform he will run the University “like a business,” which reflects a mentality that contradicts the role of the University as a public educational institution.

Meyers has also focused his platform on exercising fiscal discipline, transparency and student involvement, as well as advocating increasing accessibility for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds — all of which are admirable efforts. In his platform, Meyers even promises to propose freezing tuition for in-state students and seeks to limit enrollment of out-of-state and international students. While increasing accessibility to higher education for Michigan residents of low socioeconomic status is vitally important, much of the rhetoric in Meyers' platform is exclusionary to out-of-state and international students whose tuition and pursuits at the University play a crucial role in keeping the University financially afloat.

With both finance and community in mind, the Daily’s Editorial Board confidently endorses incumbent Regents Denise Ilitch and Laurence Deitch for re-election to the University of Michigan Board of Regents. Both candidates are aware of University and student needs, and have fought for affordability while regularly showing an active involvement in social issues pertinent to creating an inclusive campus climate. Their Republican challengers are formidable, but neither Weiser nor Meyers accurately represent the values present on our campus. Ilitch and Deitch should be reelected to continue their dedication to the University as regents for the next eight years.