U of Michigan will not remove conservative donor’s name from building, faces backlash

University of Michigan President Mark Schissel rebuked the regent’s remarks but defended university policy on naming buildings.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel blasted the decision to preserve the name on Twitter.

The University of Michigan will not be removing conservative Regent Ron Weiser’s name after backlash and condemnation over his comments directed at Democratic state leadership.

Announcing on June 3 in a statement, President Mark Schissel joined in “condemnation of Regent Weiser’s misogynistic and violent comments against elected state officials,” but will not petition the Board of Regents to “change the name of Weiser Hall.” 

Weiser currently chairs the Michigan Republican Party, serves as a UM Regent, and is a longtime donor of the university. 

Campus Reform reported on May 27 that Weiser called Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, and Attorney General Dana Nessel “witches,” and suggested that they be burned at the stake.

“I made the decision to continue to serve, to make sure we have an opportunity to take out those three witches in two years from now,” Weiser said at a North Oakland Republican Club meeting on March 26. “Our job now is to soften up those three witches and make sure that when we have good candidates to run against them, that they are ready for the burning at the stake.”

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Wesier apologized for his comments and was censured by the board on April 2. 

Schlissel pointed to the importance of free speech and the reality of the gift agreement made between the Weiser family and the university as an inability to rename Weiser Hall. 

“One bedrock principle is free speech, which we must uphold even when we find speech offensive,” Schlissel said. “While Regent Weiser’s recent comments in no way reflect our values, he has done much good upholding democratic values as our nation’s Ambassador to Slovakia and as a philanthropist.”

Additionally, the President shared, “were we to decide to violate the contract and remove his name from a building, we would be obligated to return the associated gift.” 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and UM German studies professor Silke-Maria Weineck blasted Schissel’s decision.

“Its ok for my alma mater to adorn the name of the man who encouraged the execution & assassination of numerous elected officials of both parties on @umich buildings since being a billionaire means anything you say or do is fine,” Nessel tweeted June 5. 

“So we could get out of the gift agreement but we won’t because we don’t think misogyny, political violence and voter suppression are in sufficient conflict with our mission,” professor Weineck told The Detroit News. “Just an old boy culture asserting its dominance in the face of any threat.”

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A petition calling on the conservative Regent to resign over his March 26 comments has amassed over 7,000 signatures. “We loudly reaffirm our demand that he resign, and we expect President Schlissel to condemn this threat to all students of color on campus,” states the petition. 

The UM College Republicans shared their support of Regent Weiser to Campus Reform

“He has been the victim of a long-winded, unfounded smear campaign spearheaded by partisan operatives. He’s a great Regent and even better man, totally undeserving of such hostility.”

University policy on naming buildings after donors states: “The university is committed to retaining the name of each facility, space, and street (collectively referred to in this paragraph as a “facility”) bearing a donor-designated name or honorific name. The name is intended to remain for the life of the facility.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @SergeiKelley