Despite backlash and activism from the campus community to rename it, the University of Michigan Office of Public Affairs released a statement on June 3 announcing a decision to retain the name Weiser Hall, named for U-M Regent and Michigan Republican Party Chair Ronald Weiser and his wife Eileen.
University President Mark Schlissel said after considering many factors, including the University’s commitment to free speech, the contractual obligations of gift agreements and the University’s naming policy, he would not recommend changing the name of Weiser Hall.
“Having considered these factors and weighed the difficult questions they raise, I have determined that I will not recommend to the regents that they violate the gift agreement and change the name of Weiser Hall,” Schlissel wrote in a statement. “I have opted to continue to build on the shared ground with Regent Weiser in support of core mission work of the university and will continue to assert university values when there is disagreement.”
The decision from Schlissel came in response to a petition to remove the name following Weiser’s controversial comments earlier this year regarding elected officials. On March 25, Weiser made comments at a North Oakland Republican Club meeting which labeled Michigan’s top officeholders — three Democratic women — “witches” and mentioned “assassination” in the context of changing the congressional representation of the Michigan Republican Party.
Earlier this year, there were also calls after the violent attack at the U.S. Capitol for Weiser’s resignation because he did not specifically denounce former President Donald Trump for inciting violence.
After the March 2021 remarks were publicized, Weiser said he never advocated for violence.
“I apologize to those I offended for the flippant analogy about three women who are elected officials and for the off-hand comments about two other leaders,” Weiser wrote.
At the April 2 meeting, University Board of Regents chair Denise Ilitch (D) introduced a resolution condemning Weiser’s statement and called him to resign from the board; the resolution passed 5–0, with Weiser and Regent Sarah Hubbard (R) abstaining and one regent absent. Another petition from the U-M community demanding his resignation has nearly 7,200 signatures.
Nonetheless, Weiser refused to resign. At the meeting, Weiser reacted to the vote by defiantly declaring he would “not be canceled.” The University’s chapter of College Republicans reacted to the vote in agreement with Weiser, citing it as an example of cancel culture. The College Republicans did not respond to requests for comment regarding the administration’s decision to retain the name of Weiser hall in time for publication.
The day after the U-M Board of Regents meeting, LSA professor Silke-Maria Weineck and STAMPS professor Rebekah Modrak organized a creative form of protest to ceremoniously rename Weiser Hall the “Weiser Center for Voter Suppression, Political Assassination and Witch Burning.”
Modrak elaborated on the intention of this creative form of protest in a blog post, saying that in an ideal world, the buildings on U-M campuses would be named after people who represent the values and diversity of the institution.
“We created this action to urge the university to quickly begin the process of removing Weiser’s name from all university-affiliated buildings and institutions, as no member of our community should be forced into symbolic association with a man who advocates misogyny, violence, and anti-democratic intent,” Modrak wrote.
Regarding Schlissel’s decision to retain the name of Weiser hall, Weineck said as long as the building carries the Weiser name, it will always be the “Weiser Center for Voter Supression, Political Assassination and Witch Burning” to her.
“I look forward to the day when we name our buildings after worthy people,” Weineck said.
Modrak also reacted to Schlissel’s decision with disappointment because she said it would have been an opportunity for the administration to prove misogyny has no place on the U-M campus.
“President Schlissel seems to find returning a 50-million dollar gift more ill-mannered than Weiser’s misogynist comments and suggestions to assassinate elected state officials,” Modrak said. “Schlissel’s refusal to rename the building is a betrayal to the integrity of the university and to all of us women on campus who, by proxy, were called witches who should be burned at the stake.”
Daily Staff Reporter Scarlett Bickerton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.