University of Michigan Regents call on Ron Weiser to resign

‘I will not resign. I will not be canceled,’ says Weiser

University of Michigan alum Ron Weiser is a former ambassador to Slovakia in President George W. Bush's administration. Credit: University of Michigan

ANN ARBOR – In a special meeting on Friday morning, the University of Michigan Regents convened with other university leaders to present a resolution calling on Regent Ron Weiser to resign.

The motion carried with six votes, one abstention and one absence.

Michigan’s GOP chair, Weiser has come under fire for comments he made during a recent party meeting in which he referred to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel as “three witches.” He also referenced assassination when asked how the party should unseat GOP Reps. Fred Upton and Peter Meijer who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump.

His statements drew swift backlash from the University of Michigan community and beyond. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Weiser’s comments are “destructive and downright dangerous.”

Screenshot from the University of Michigan Board of Regents special meeting on April 2, 2021. (University of Michigan)

After Board of Regents Chairwoman Denise Ilitch presented the resolution to censure Weiser, he said he will not step down.

“As a University of Michigan Regent, I take full responsibility for what I said and I am sorry and regret my poorly chosen words that were offhand remarks made at a private Republican party meeting,” said Weiser. “I agree with part of this resolution, but I will not resign. I pledge to be a part of a respectful dialogue going forward and challenge my colleagues and others to do the same. I will not be canceled.”

Regent Jordan Acker called Weiser’s comments a betrayal of the University of Michigan community.

“Accountability is not cancelation and the reason that we are here today is that Regent Ron Weiser refuses to be accountable for his actions,” Regent Jordan Acker. “Regent Weiser, you should be sorry for your behavior. Your words could have killed someone. You should be sorry because you as a leader must know the power of words.

“You have forced this Board to take this painful and permanent step against one of our own. I hope that you will take the step to fix the damage that you have caused to our community, to our campuses, to our Board and to our institution.”

Weiser and his wife have donated more than $120 million to the University of Michigan to establish The Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute, the Weiser Diplomacy Center at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and more.

The Board of Regents acknowledged and thanked Weiser for his extensive commitment of time and resources to the university, but said his comments crossed a line.

“This special meeting is as unprecedented in our 200 year history as it is unavoidable,” said Regent Mark Bernstein. “It would be easy to dismiss Regent Weiser’s remarks as just partisan politics as usual, or a mere slip of the tongue. But this conduct cannot be called politics as usual. It wasn’t a slip of the tongue, it was a strategy.

“Threatening rhetoric has no place in even the most partisan circumstances. And while Regent Weiser’s conduct occurred in the political arena, the harm it causes goes far beyond politics.”

In a recent statement calling for Weiser’s resignation, eight U-M Regents Emeritus wrote, “To be clear, Mr. Weiser’s remarks were not ‘taken out of context.’ They are apparently what he believes, and issuing an apology to ‘those I offended’ is a tired cliché which is customarily thrown out when a person isn’t apologetic at all. They are merely in hot water!”

At the end of the meeting, Regent Ilitch reiterated the Board’s stance that Weiser should step down as his role of Regent if he “truly loves” the university, saying that his inflammatory comments and unwillingness to issue a full and sincere apology “put the university in an untenable position.”

Ilitch announced that Board committee memberships have been reassigned and that Regent Weiser no longer is a member of the finance committee and the University of Michigan Dearborn and Flint committee.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.