The University of Michigan Central Student Government met Tuesday evening to discuss a resolution calling for U-M Regent Ron Weiser (R) to resign from his position. Members also met to hear the annual State of the Students speech and improve CSG election processes.
CSG introduced a resolution advocating for Weiser’s resignation after he faced controversy for his initial response to the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol. It also points to his background as the founder of McKinley Management, a real estate investment company based in and with properties in Ann Arbor.
Rackham student Amir Fleischmann, secretary of the Graduate Employees’ Organization, came to the CSG meeting as a guest speaker to discuss the resolution on Weiser’s resignation. Fleischmann said he considers Weiser’s role as the Michigan Republican Party co-chair to be a conflict of interest when making long-term decisions about the University. GEO recently published an op-ed in The Michigan Daily calling for Weiser’s resignation.
“This position is totally unacceptable for this individual to be a regent at the University,” Fleischmann said. “It’s unacceptable because of his relationship to the riots at the Capitol and it was unacceptable long before that. For somebody to be a major landlord in the town, and to have input into whether the University builds new dorms, is a serious conflict of interest. That seems to be in violation of U-M’s own conflict of interest policy.”
Though Weiser founded McKinley Management and made his fortune through the company, he is now retired from its leadership.
LSA junior Trenten Ingell also showed his support for Weiser’s resignation, saying the resolution is long overdue. He pointed to Weiser’s unwillingness to condemn his Michigan GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock. Maddock has faced backlash for organizing buses to take Michiganders to D.C. for the Jan. 6 riots.
Ingell then stated an oft-repeated argument among those pushing Weiser to resign that Weiser’s ties to his real estate company influenced the University’s decision to reopen, an unsubstantiated claim. Weiser has said the regents did not vote on whether or not to bring students back to campus.
“(Weiser) had direct interest in bringing students back to campus — which many students can tell you now in retrospect, and most people could have told you way in advance, that bringing the students back into Ann Arbor during a global pandemic was not a very wise nor caring move,” Ingell said. “It was definitely motivated for profit.”
McKinley Management properties are not within walking distance of Central or North Campus, and the company’s apartments are not meant as student housing.
Public Health junior Nithya Arun also advocated for the resignation of Weiser due to what she called his “blatantly racist comments,” referring to an email he sent other regents telling them their lack of public support for him as calls for his resignation heighten is reminiscent of “Germany in the 1930’s.”
“It’s completely unacceptable for a person of (Weiser’s) statute to be making just blatantly racist comments and being complicit in sedition,” Arun said. “We cannot let this slide, and we must hold people accountable for their actions, so as this resolution says we will back any and all efforts in their recall upon Weiser.”
Weiser did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily regarding CSG’s resolution. In a Jan. 20 email to his supporters obtained by Bridge Michigan, Weiser wrote that he, along with Republicans across the state and the nation, has been “mocked, threatened and attacked.” He wrote that Democrats and the mainstream media are “launching an all out assault on everyone who doesn’t think exactly as they do with their cancel culture.”
“Big Tech, Big Corporations and Universities have made a conscious decision to try and erase conservatives and the Republican party,” Weiser wrote. “They are aided by a complicit media that has abandoned any sense of fairness or responsibility to the truth.”
The resolution about Weiser will be voted on in the next CSG meeting.
Later in the meeting, Public Policy senior Amanda Kaplan, CSG president, discussed CSG’s development this academic year through her State of the Student presentation. Kaplan and LSA senior Saveri Nandigama, CSG Vice President, ran their campaign on the grounds of sustainability, affordability and accessibility, student wellness and civic engagement. Kaplan’s presentation focused on the administration’s accomplishments in each of these areas during the fall semester.
Kaplan noted sustainability efforts were quiet for the beginning of the 2020-21 year, but the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality brought sustainability to the forefront of campus involvement. She said there has been significant student involvement in analyzing the PCCN’s recommendations since they were made public in January.
Kaplan also discussed access and affordability, saying that she felt this was an area CSG has made a great deal of progress in. She highlighted initiatives such as subsidized costs in numerous areas of student expenses as well as more advocacy and policies pertaining to students in need of additional academic services, such as a resolution calling for universal transcription services for virtual classes.
“I feel like this is the place that we did the most work this year,” Kaplan said. “As you can see, we’ve done a lot of amazing things. We did Group X passes, which subsidized Group X classes for students both in the fall and winter semester. We distributed hundreds of graduation gowns to students for free, and I’m going to be continuing that program through the semester for undergraduate, master’s and professional students.”
Kaplan also talked about events planned to increase civic engagement during the Democracy and Debate themed semester, such as the Trevor Noah virtual event. She also mentioned CSG’s attempt to gain a day off from school on Election Day.
“That was not successful, but we’re going to keep pushing regardless … hopefully reinvigorating that conversation and continuously pressuring administration to address this issue,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan emphasized the importance of intersectionality of all their campaign goals in the realm of diversity, equity and inclusion, saying DEI should be embedded and institutionalized within all the other policies that CSG addresses.
“You can’t have real affordability, accessibility, student wellness, sustainability or civic engagement policies without a recognition of their intersection with DEI,” Kaplan said. “But with that said, I do want to emphasize some of the specifically DEI initiatives that we did that did not necessarily fit under one of those other four categories, just to emphasize our continued commitment to this.”
In this realm, Kaplan highlighted achievements within DEI, such as creating an anti-racism google drive, the establishment of a Graduate Employees’ Organization Committee on Public Safety chaired by Nandigama and a resolution establishing that Race and Ethnicity requirements must be implemented into all colleges of the University by 2025.
Kaplan concluded her presentation by discussing her goal to introduce a resolution within the entirety of the Big Ten conference to focus on DEI within each school’s student governing spaces.
“We are also hoping to pass a similar resolution, through the Association of Big Ten Students, calling on all universities within the Big Ten to implement similar initiatives to ensure that their spaces of student governance are promoting DEI before they try to go out and promote the DEI on their campus community, because we can’t do that if the spaces we’re operating within are not promoting DEI,” she said.
CSG also introduced a resolution at the meeting to establish clarifications and improvements to the CSG election process for the next election.
Rackham student Siddharth Chaudhari explained his committee’s reasoning for introducing this resolution.
“Basically, we want to make elections more equitable, more understandable for people who are running, whether those are people inside or outside of CSG,” Chaudari said.
Rackham student Austin Glass highlighted the goals of the resolution in terms of the spirit of CSG and its democratic integrity.
“The elections code needs improvements and needs adjustments (so) everybody can come together and agree on the sorts of changes that need to be made,” Glass said. “This resolution aims to preserve the spirit of the changes that were made in the previous assembly… as a legislator at that time, I voted in favor of the changes that were ultimately signed by the president.”
The Assembly discussed this resolution and will bring it to a vote in the next meeting.
CSG also passed a motion to provide definite pay for the Elections Director for CSG.
Daily Staff Reporter Emily Blumberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: A previous version of this article quoted Nithya Arun as calling Ron Weiser's comments "complicit in tradition." Arun actually said Weiser's comments were "complicit in sedition."
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