The race for two seats on the University’s Board of Regents will heat up this weekend when both the Democratic and Republican parties hold their nominating conventions to choose candidates for the two posts.
And while it has not yet been publicly announced which two Democrats will seek seats on the University’s highest governing board, the two Republican incumbents whose terms will expire at the end of the year have told The Michigan Daily they will be seeking re-election.
Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R–Ann Arbor) and Regent Andrew Richner (R–Grosse Pointe Park) told the Daily last May they would both seek re-election to the Board of Regents.
In more recent interviews with the Daily, both regents — the only two Republicans on the Board — laid out why they made the decision to run for re-election and, if re-elected, what they hope to accomplish in their next eight-year term.
Newman, the senior vice president of government affairs at Delta Airlines and a University alum, said she decided to seek another term on the Board because she feels she can be “helpful” in advancing the mission of the University.
“I think in the past two terms a lot of good has happened and some things you can do today you couldn’t do 10 or 15 years ago,” Newman said. “It’s incredible the environment we’re in and it’s incredible how well we’ve done.”
But despite the University’s current positioning, two-term Board veteran Newman said she believes there is still more work to be done.
At the top of that list right now, she said, are several key priorities — including major capital improvements to the University’s Medical Campus, work to advance the University higher in national and international rankings and extensive renovations to several residence halls on campus.
“We compete not only on academic excellence and academic integrity and quality, but we compete on housing, we compete on athletics, we compete on research,” Newman said. “We compete on all different levels depending on the student and we have to meet all of those levels.”
With the belief that the University Health System needs to start planning for a new adult hospital and new facility for the School of Nursing, Newman said advancing the mission of the hospital will require an investment in facilities.
“We need to continue to update and move the institution forward to stay at the top of the pack,” Newman said. “I think I can be helpful there because I’ve seen us do it, and I know what it takes to maintain excellence and grow.”
Newman went on to explain that she believes improving the quality of student housing should also be a top priority for the University. However, she said her commitment to this issue is nothing new, adding that she’s fought for improved facilities throughout her time on the Board.
“Since the day I came on the Board of Regents, I have been asking for new housing for students,” Newman said, highlighting the construction of North Quad and the renovations of Stockwell Residence Hall, Mosher-Jordan Residence Hall and the ongoing renovation to Couzens Residence Hall. “Now, we need to do East Quad. We need to do South Quad. We need to do West Quad. We need to figure out what we can do to North Campus to make it more attractive.”
It’s part of Newman’s plan to make life in student housing attractive enough that students will opt to live on campus after their freshman or sophomore year.
“We need everyone to have a Michigan experience and we need to have the option of having them stay in student housing if that’s what they want to do,” Newman said. “I think those are important both for the student but also for the quality of our education.”
Newman added that beyond the overall quality of education, more work must be done to help the University to grow on both the national and international stages.
“I think what we’re looking at doing now is moving Michigan up higher in the academic rankings,” she said. “I think we’re just starting to expand globally and I think we’re looking now at how to position ourselves for global education in a global market.”
In an e-mail interview with the Daily, Richner — a member of the Board of Regents for the past eight years and a third-generation graduate of the University — said he feels compelled to seek re-election because of the enormous impact the University has had in his life.
“I owe any success that I have had to the University and would like to keep giving back,” he wrote. “I believe that continuity in leadership is important to maintaining the University of Michigan’s standing as one of the world’s great institutions of higher education.”
Richner also wrote that he has big priorities for moving the University forward if re-elected to the Board of Regents.
“I am devoted to sustaining the University’s affordability and accessibility,” Richner wrote. “With our own son starting this fall in LS&A, I share the concerns of parents and students with respect to tuition and believe that we need to continue to look for ways to reduce costs and manage our resources prudently.”
To that end, Richner said there are several key areas that the Board of Regents and University officials should look to in efforts to maintain an affordable tuition rate.
“We also need to continue to grow our fundraising efforts, expand on federal research funding opportunities and look for development of alternative revenue sources,” Richner wrote.
Richner said he has experience with financial planning including proposing the University’s model of extensive budget forecasting while serving as the Board’s chairman.
“As chair of the Board, I proposed multi-year budgeting for the University,” Richner wrote. “Previously, the University was on a one-year budget cycle, like the state of Michigan.
“By looking three years out, as we do now, we can better eliminate peaks and valleys, providing for more stability in University finances and more departmental accountability,” he continued. “This will in turn help us eliminate significant tuition increases.”
Richner said his financial experience at the University also includes a great deal of work with University administrators and fellow regents on efforts to reduce costs without impacting the quality of education.
“These efforts include reducing the University’s health care and insurance costs, being more deliberate in using and allocating space across the campus, promoting energy efficiency, seeking more disciplined budgeting from the University’s schools, colleges and other business units and selling non-productive assets,” Richner wrote. “We also helped lead the most successful private fundraising campaign in the University’s history.”
Richner, Newman and other candidates for the University’s Board of Regents will appear on the state-wide Nov. 2 ballot. Whichever two candidates garner the most votes will begin their eight-year terms at the Board’s Jan. 20 meeting next year.