Candidates running for the University Board of Regents often say the position isn’t about politics.

Mike Hulsebus
University Board of Regents candidates at a forum yesterday afternoon in Rackham Ampitheatre. They talked about Michigan Stadium renovations and the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, among other topics. (RODRIGO GAYA)

At a debate yesterday, major-party candidates running for the two open seats in the Nov. 7 election tried to drive that point home.

Republican Susan Brown and Democrats Kathy White and Julia Darlow appeared along with Green Party candidate Edward Morin and Libertarian nominee James Hudler. Republican David Brandon participated by phone.

Charles Smith, chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, moderated the debate.

The Republicans and Democrats rarely disagreed during the debate, except while discussing the upcoming renovations to Michigan Stadium.

In May, the regents voted 5 to 3 in favor of a renovation plan that would add suites to Michigan Stadium. Brandon voted for the proposal and White against it. If the regents don’t approve a final design by the time the newly elected members take office, and two suite opponents win seats on the board, the balance of power could change.

Brandon and Brown said they support the inclusion of luxury boxes in the renovations, while White said she remains opposed to the proposal.

“I’ve not yet been convinced that the luxury boxes are best for Michigan,” said White, an incumbent.

Darlow refused to give a “yes or no answer” and said she would need to review all the relevant information after taking office.

Aside from that, the major-party candidates didn’t spar over any issues.

Before the candidates gave their closing statements, Smith asked them to explain what set them apart from the rest.

“Considering the general consensus of ideas that has been stated, is there a viewpoint that you can share that distinguishes you from all the other candidates?” Smith asked.

The Democrats and Republicans all said their unique backgrounds qualify them to serve as regent.

Brandon, an incumbent, said he doesn’t have a platform, but his experience as the president and CEO of Ann Arbor-based Domino’s Pizza has given him the business know-how to manage the University.

Brown said she has shown dedication in 25 years of service to the University. She currently serves on the boards of the University’s Museum of Art and the Ford School of Public Policy.

On the Democratic side, Darlow, a corporate lawyer, said her experience in nonprofit and corporate law has prepared her for the job.

White, a law professor at Wayne State University, said her background as an academic lends her a different perspective on the position.

The Green Party and Libertarian candidates distinguished themselves by disagreeing with the major-party candidates.

Out of all six candidates, only Hudler said he supports Proposal 2, which would ban some forms of affirmative action in the state of Michigan, prompting a hiss from an audience member.

Throughout the debate, Morin said repeatedly that he stood apart because of his antiwar stance.

Smith read a question from a member of the University Senate Assembly asking whether the candidates support the presence of military recruiters on campus. In order to receive federal funding, the University must permit military recruiting.

“I think it’s obscene,” Morin said. “People as varied as Newt Gingrich and Noam Chomsky have said we’re headed for a third world war with the policies that we have, and I think that the University should stay neutral in all of this.”

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