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Weiser: ‘I won’t be canceled,’ after U-M regents call for his resignation

u of m board
A vote to censure is one of the strongest actions the board can take, since members are elected officials, and the body doesn’t have the power to boot someone off. (Screenshot/Sergio Martínez-Beltrán)

LANSING— The University of Michigan Board of Regents passed a resolution Friday censuring Regent Ron Weiser and calling for his resignation after comments he made against the state’s top three female politicians and two GOP congressmen.

Board Chair Denise Ilitch said the decision was made after listening to students, community members and others from all across the state that have condemned Weiser — also the chairman of the Michigan Republican Party — for calling Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson “witches” at a North Oakland Republican Club meeting last week.

Related:

Ron Weiser
Michigan Republican Party Chair Ron Weiser is under fire for joking about assassinating and calling Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel ‘witches. (Bridge file photo)

At the same meeting, Weiser cited “assassination” as one way two Michigan Republican congressmen might be removed from office.

“It has become clear that serving as chair of a statewide political party is simply not compatible with serving on this board,” Ilitch said. “And the situation is only likely to intensify as we get closer to the 2022 elections and the state party chair becomes more and more of a focal point.”

Ilitch cited Weiser’s raising the prospect of violence to remove GOP U.S. Reps. Fred Upton of St. Joseph and Peter Meijer of Grand Rapids. The two were among the few Republicans who voted to impeach President Donald Trump in January, after the riots in the U.S. Capitol. 

Weiser responded at the regents’ Zoom call Friday by saying he agreed with parts of the resolution but that he will not step down from the position he was elected to in 2016, with his term running through the end of 2024.  

“As a university regent I take full responsibility for what I said. And I’m sorry and regret my poorly chosen words that were offhand remarks made at a private Republican Party meeting,” Weiser said. “I pledge to be part of a respectful dialogue going forward and challenge my colleagues and others  to do the same.”

Weiser said he “will not be canceled” by being forced to resign from office. 

With his decision to stay on, Weiser will remain on the board but it’s unclear how effective he will be since he was removed from the finance committee and U-M Flint and U-M Dearborn committees. Weiser, a wealthy Ann Arbor real estate developer, is, together with his wife, Eileen, also a major donor to the university, having given more than $100 million to U-M. 

Most regents spoke about the power of words and how leaders need to be careful about what they say about other elected officials, especially since Whitmer was the target of an alleged kidnapping plot last year, and following the violent Jan. 6. riots in the U.S. Capitol. 

Regent Jordan Acker, a Democrat, said Weiser’s comments were not a mistake, but “politically motivated.”

“You should be sorry because you, as a leader, must know the power of words,” Acker said. “That what we say gives permission to others to act on our words.”

Regent Sarah Hubbard, the only Republican on the 8-member board besides Weiser, didn’t vote on the resolution. 

She said she believes elected officials need to be treated with respect. 

“Let me be clear: I do not agree with the language used by Regent Weiser in reference to any public official,” Hubbard said. “As a newly elected public official, I expect respect and professionalism when others contact and reference me in my role as regent, and other public officials should expect the same treatment.”

Hubbard said she is looking forward to “getting back to addressing the important issues facing the university, such as the need to constantly strive for academic excellence and focusing on student needs.”

What Happens Next?

A vote to censure is one of the strongest actions the board can take, since members are elected officials, and the body doesn’t have the power to boot someone off. 

So, Weiser will remain on the board until his term expires, unless he gets recalled, the GOP-led legislature impeaches him or Whitmer starts a removal procedure.

All three scenarios appear to be unlikely.

Ilitch said she hopes Friday’s vote sends a message.

“If Ron Weiser truly loves this university, he will put the university first,” Ilitch said. “He will adhere to its values and its teachings and step aside, and resign.”

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