Two seats are open this fall on the University Board of Regents. From hiring the president to approving tuition increases, the regents are the ultimate authority governing the University. Incumbents Kathy White and David Brandon are seeking to retain their seats for another eight-year term, but they face challengers of varying political backgrounds – and levels of competence.
It’s hard to imagine a more ideal candidate for the University Board of Regents than Julia Donovan Darlow. A lawyer by trade with expertise in international law and the management of nonprofits, Darlow’s credentials are impressive – she has served on the executive committee of the Detroit Medical Center and chaired the Hutzel Women’s Hospital and the Michigan Supreme Court Task Force on Gender Issues in the Courts.
Darlow is enthusiastic about making the University more accessible, particularly to low-income students. She recognizes the benefits of fostering links between Ann Arbor and Detroit. Though she hasn’t come out for or against skyboxes, she expressed concern at the lack of transparency – a positive sign that as regent, she would prioritize public input.
Despite being a relative newcomer to the University, Darlow already possesses a solid grasp of the University’s inner workings. Her broad experience in nonprofit management ensures she’ll be able to work effectively on the board from day one. The attention she has paid throughout her career to issues of diversity will make her valuable as a regent, especially if Proposal 2 passes. The Daily endorses JULIA DONOVAN DARLOW for Regent.
Kathy White, a law professor at Wayne State University, is up for re-election after an eight-year term on the Board of Regents. A main concern for her next term, should she be re-elected, is facilitating the University’s contributions to building a knowledge-based economy to help Michigan move beyond its manufacturing past. Her training as an electrical engineer and in patent law leaves her more qualified than most to deal with the minutiae involved in boosting research and encouraging entrepreneurship.
After eight years on the board, the Democratic incumbent has a solid understanding of the University’s operations – and has concrete suggestions for improvements. Waste and fraud on University purchasing cards is one target; another is increasing financial aid resources by requiring donors for building projects to designate a portion of their contribution to need-based financial aid as well.
As the only working academic on the board, White brings an important perspective to the regents’ discussions. She is critical both of the plans to build luxury boxes in Michigan Stadium and the manner in which those plans have been presented. White points out that the skybox plan may not address long-term financial issues facing the Athletic Department. KATHY WHITE had done a fine job, and the Daily endorses her for re-election.
David Brandon – the football player, business school alumnus, chairman and CEO of Domino’s Pizza and incumbent Republican regent – has done a respectable job managing the University. His business acumen is acute, and his nuanced understanding of the complex politics of managing tuition costs while striving to maintain the “culture of Michigan” indicates a realistic commitment to driving down the University’s costs by managing budgets and generating revenue streams. Brandon’s remarkable record of donations to the University might not affect his qualifications as an extremely competent managerial candidate for the Board of Regents one way or the other, but such philanthropy is certainly commendable.
Brandon, however, shows too much of the character of his day job as CEO in downplaying the importance of accountability and transparency in the Board of Regents’ dealings with students and others outside of the immediate bureaucracy. A major proponent of the stadium renovation plan that would place luxury boxes in Michigan Stadium, he doesn’t seem troubled by maneuvers such as the placement of the renovation plan on the agenda for the May meeting after the deadline for public comment had passed.
Still, the University could – and, in fact, very well might – do worse than to see Brandon serve on the board for eight more years.
Susan Brown is the product of generations of proud University graduates. That much is clear. But little else is, including why the Republican Party chose to nominate her.
Simply put, Brown is not a credible candidate. She clearly loves the University, her alma mater. Her history of service in fundraising efforts for the University deserves sincere praise. However, nothing in her background or her endorsement interview suggests that she would be able to discharge the responsibilities of regent in a competent manner.
Brown was most vehement about her refusal to vote for tuition increases above the rate of inflation – ever. That’s a compelling campaign promise, but in an era of declining state appropriations, it’s also one that could sacrifice academic quality, though Brown didn’t seem to think that was the case. Nevertheless, she insisted that students should vote her out of office if she ever broke her honorable – though economically na’ve – vow.
Until recently, Brown’s website included a section detailing her opposition to embryonic stem-cell research. While the text on her site didn’t take a position on Proposal 2, the page did include statements rather hostile to any race-conscious admissions policy.
Those views have now vanished, though the old page lives on in the Google cache. As of an endorsement interview last night, Brown now supports embryonic stem-cell research and seems to oppose Proposal 2, or at least she throws around the word “diversity” a lot. Be sure to check www.susan4regent.com for subsequent changes of mind.
Brown is not without original ideas – she stands alone in mourning the changes that led the senior society formerly known as Michigamua to abandon the offensive use of Native American culture during its ceremonies in the past.
That there has been a dispute over whether the regents should add the words “gender identity and expression” to the University’s nondiscrimination policy was news to Brown. She was also unsure whether the measure on the state ballot this fall that would mandate inflationary increases in education funding was Proposal 5 or the nonexistent Proposal 6.
Brown’s deference to higher – and, dare we say, more competent – authorities seems to be a campaign theme. When questioned about her qualifications for managing a multi-billion dollar institution, she admitted that she was no “cardshark” and insisted optimistically that the Board of Regents could bring in financial consultants. Asked what changes the University would need to make to maintain a diverse student body if the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative passes, Brown absolved herself from all problem-solving responsibility by stating that there are lots of smart people here, so someone will come up with something.
Regardless of their political ideology, the University benefits when competent, experienced individuals serve as regents. In her own words, Susan Brown is an “independent woman.” She’s also one who would bring little of value to the Board of Regents.