Despite an acute shortage of funding from
the state, it is hard to make the case that the University is going
in the wrong direction. It remains a principled institution of the
highest caliber. Even during hard economic times, a change is not
necessary.

Janna Hutz

This year, two seats on the University Board of Regents are up
for grabs. The regents are responsible for overseeing the
administration and making crucial decisions about the budget and
the direction of the University. They are elected statewide to
eight-year terms. Current regents S. Martin Taylor and Olivia
Maynard have been instrumental in helping the University maintain
its values and its commitment to progress. Michigan voters should
re-elect them.

Taylor and Maynard have consistently stood up for principles
important to the University. Both supported the lawsuits defending
affirmative action, and each has pledged to guard, as well as
encourage, diversity at the University if elected to another term.
Both believe the University is correct in providing benefits to
employees’ same-sex domestic partners, and both are willing
to defend those benefits in court should Proposal 2 pass.

Taylor and Maynard have also demonstrated a willingness to
tackle student issues, especially those related to housing. Both
believe the University can play a pivotal role in fixing the flawed
housing situation in Ann Arbor. Taylor specifically recognizes that
the expansion and modernization of University housing could provide
students with attractive alternatives to traditional off-campus
housing.

Taylor and Maynard also played a part in the selection of
current University President Mary Sue Coleman. While Coleman has
made mistakes since taking the reins of this mammoth institution,
she has undeniably moved the University in the right direction. The
regents were wise in finding a president who would continue,
without wavering, the fight for affirmative action. Coleman has
also refocused the University on student issues, including the same
housing concerns that motivate these regents.

Of course, Taylor and Maynard have not been perfect either. The
University has grappled with devastating budget cuts, and Maynard
and Taylor have not been as active as they could have been trying
to obtain money from the state. Both have pledged to do more
lobbying in Lansing to prevent further budget cuts, and Taylor
wants to have state universities work together to prevent funding
cuts. As incumbents, these candidates should have already taken
these steps to help stop the loss of vital state funding. In their
next terms, they must be even stronger advocates for higher
education.

In large part, it is these very financial issues that drive Carl
Meyers and Patrick Anderson, the Republican challengers, to run for
the board. However, neither has managed to show support for the
values that University stands for. Though both speak about the
importance of diversity, neither will say that the University made
the right decision in defending its affirmative action policy in
court, and both were emphatic in their assertion that the money
spent on the affirmative action cases was money misspent. Meyers
has emphasized the need to make undergraduate applications more
“user friendly” by scaling back the essay component.
But eradicating essays from the admissions process would force the
University to rely more heavily on grade point average and
standardized test scores. Those standards do not provide a
meaningful picture of an applicant, and they have been found to
disadvantage minority applicants. Neither candidate would defend
the University’s right to provide domestic partner benefits,
an important principle on which the University needs to stand
firm.

In short, the two Republicans view the board as if it were a
corporate board of directors. This can be a useful perspective, but
the University is a public institution of higher education. Banal
cost-benefit analyses cannot and should not paralyze the University
from acting on principle: Even worse, when asked where the
University is wasting money — Meyers and Anderson contend it
is — they are unable to come up with a compelling answer.

Running to challenge Democrats and Republicans alike, one third
party candidate has been causing a certain amount of stir on
campus. Nathaniel Damren, a University student, brings a new
perspective to the ballot with a focus on labor and workers’
rights. He recognizes the current predicament with state
appropriations for the University and the dependence on private
donations. Unfortunately, Damren proposes to address the budget
crunch by increasing in-state tuition to the level that
out-of-state students pay, offsetting the rise in costs by offering
more scholarships and financial aid packages for the economically
disadvantaged. However, he fails to recognize the effect this
proposal would have on middle-income students who might not
completely qualify for his scholarships. While some of
Damren’s proposals are not viable or well thought through,
his perspectives on the role of a Regent are very pertinent, and it
is commendable that a student would participate in this highly
contested race.

This election comes down to the question of whether the regents
have been guiding the University along the proper course, despite
the obvious challenges. We believe they have. The Republican
challengers do not agree. Presumably, they would chart a
drastically different course for this institution, but that course
is not the right one for the University. It is not consistent with
its values and with the practical challenges ahead. Without
reservation, this page endorses S. MARTIN TAYLOR and
OLIVIA MAYNARD and encourages Michigan voters to keep them
on the board of regents.

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