Statements from members of the U-M Board of Regents


Regent Mark J. Bernstein:

The only thing worse than Richard Spencer being on our campus is stopping him from being on our campus. We could do the easy thing. Others have. We could ban Richard Spencer. Everyone would celebrate. The board would be cheered. President Schlissel would be applauded. But we would be dancing on our own grave.

And on our tomb stone will read: “Here lies the University of Michigan. Afraid to do the right and difficult thing, it compromised its commitment to the constitution and died failing to live up to the bedrock value of free expression that is essential to our mission as a great university (because bold and honest thought requires it).”

The great Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson was the lead Allied prosecutor at Nuremberg.  He was familiar with Nazis.  He would recognize Richard Spencer’s gutter racism.  His repugnant views. It is Justice Jackson who called free speech the “fixed star in our constitutional constellation.” Jackson knew – as we must teach – that a government with the power to discriminate on the basis of viewpoint will use that power to censor views it does not like.

When we give government the power to ban speech – it will. And look at our government today – With its totalitarian impulses. A president who laments the fact that the media “can say whatever it wants.” Who urges employers to fire employees that are critical of the government. Who vilifies and targets journalists it does not like.

We must ask ourselves – what speech, exactly, will this government suppress? That’s why I fully support the administration’s approach to protect his first amendment free speech rights while applying time, place and manner restrictions that maintain public safety.

Regent Shauna Ryder Diggs:

First, I want to be very clear. I support free speech not hate speech. Equality, inclusion and civil discourse. Race, gender, orientation or religion. We know what he stands for. I disagree. I’m in support of the president’s decision. We all have a choice. Attend, ignore or peacefully protest.

Regent Denise Ilitch:

I want to thank each and every person who wrote to me about this complex and difficult situation. Your words made a big impact on me. Many of the thoughts I write on this statement are your words.

The University of Michigan is a world renowned academic institution. We have worked very hard to uphold our values and principles, one of which is to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive world.

I fully and adamantly reject the hateful white supremacy espoused by Richard Spencer. I reject his anti-Semitic, racist views and his hate of LGBT citizens as well as many others. Unfortunately, I do not agree with the University of Michigan administration​.

I agree with the position of​ Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Penn State, The University of North Carolina and Auburn University in DENYING his request to speak on their campuses.

The First Amendment and free speech is a cornerstone of our democratic principles; and
while I am a staunch proponent of the First Amendment and stand firmly in support of our Constitution, I remain very concerned that it is unsafe to allow him to speak at the University of Michigan. Violence follows him wherever he goes.

Physical and emotional safety are​ my No. 1 priority and I am not willing to risk history repeating itself.

I join President Schissel and our administration​ in encouraging ​our University of Michigan community to promote peace, care and support of one another during this painful journey. That is what University of Michigan ‘Victors’ do.

Go Blue.

Regent Andrea Fischer Newman:

We are being called upon to advise and support President Schlissel on his decision as to whether a speaker who is offensive to the vast majority of our community should be allowed to rent space at this university. I wish to make myself 100 percent clear at the outset. I reject this speaker’s views and everything for which he stands.

His views are odious to me, as they are to everyone who values the principles upon which this country was founded. But I must give full faith to my duties under the Constitution, especially the principle of free speech embodied in the First Amendment. Those duties are sometimes not easy to fulfill, but it is at times like this that it is all the more important that constitutional officers fulfill their duty.

I trust that the president, in consultation with our highly experienced executive director of our Division of Public Safety and Security, will determine whether this individual can be allowed to speak here safely.

This university should not allow itself to be cowed by the voices of bigotry and hatred. Those voices will convict themselves by their own words. Our principles will not be weakened by those who do not share them but rather strengthened and tempered by our resiliency in defending them.

Regent Andrew C. Richner:

I agree with this approach and I share the views of colleagues in support of that position.
The First Amendment does not require anyone to listen.

Regent Ron Weiser:

I want to make clear that I fully support the decision of President Schlissel to move forward in the way he has recommended. As a CEO and business leader, I believe it is critical to support the decisions of a chief executive, in this case the president of this great university. The views of this speaker are odious and I reject them with all my heart.

As a human being, and as a Jew, whose family was murdered by the Nazis, I reject his hateful views with every fiber of my being. However, I believe that the university has a fundamental duty to fulfill our obligations under the Constitution of the state of Michigan and the Constitution of the United States of America, namely, the 1st Amendment right to free speech, even if that speech is hateful.

The best thing that the students of the University of Michigan can do is ignore this speaker. Do not give him an audience. Let the story be that our university upheld the right to free speech, but no one was interested in hearing these vile and hateful remarks.