Michigan Regent Censured Over ‘Witches’ Comments

Ron Weiser said he will not resign and “will not be canceled” amid outcry over comments he made about women who hold elected office in Michigan, including Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

April 5, 2021
 
University of Michigan
Ron Weiser was censured Friday by the University of Michigan's Board of Regents but said he will not step down.

The University of Michigan's Board of Regents on Friday censured a regent, Ron Weiser, who in March called Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer and two other female state officials the “three witches” and suggested they be "ready for the burning at the stake" during the next election.

Weiser, who is also chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, apologized for his comments during Friday’s board meeting but said he would not resign.

The board vote capped a week full of controversy over Weiser’s remarks, which he made at an event for Michigan's North Oakland Republican Club on March 26. There, he said that Whitmer, state Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson are “three witches.”

“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. And maybe, the press heard that, too,” Weiser said at the event.

He also referenced assassination when asked about Michigan Republican representatives Peter Meijer and Fred Upton, who both voted to impeach former president Donald Trump in January.

“Other than assassination, I have no other way other than voting them out,” he said at the Republican Club event.

In its resolution, the board called Weiser’s comments violent and sexist, and it wrote that “the members of the Board of Regents condemn in the strongest possible language the behavior of Regent Weiser, his language, and the actions.”

Several board members spoke in support of the board resolution.

“Instead of being a leader, he did not just follow, but coaxed the crowd into a dark place. Instead of patriotism, Regent Weiser chose cowardice,” one regent, Jordan Acker, said about Weiser’s comments at the Republican Club event. “His words irreparably harmed his reputation at this institution.”

Denise Ilitch, chair of the board, also spoke out against Weiser's language.

“If Ron Weiser truly loves this university, he will put the university first. He will adhere to its values and its teachings and step aside and resign,” Ilitch said. “His use of violent imagery crossed a line that is inconsistent with what should be our shared values.”

The board’s vote is mostly symbolic. Regents do not have the authority to remove other regents, who are voted onto the board in biennial statewide elections, the Detroit Free Press reported. All members of the Board of Regents are affiliated with a political party. Weiser was elected to the board in 2016, and his term expires in 2025.

At the end of the meeting, Ilitch stripped Weiser of his committee assignments.

Earlier in the meeting, Weiser said he would not resign.

“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 Friday. “I agree with part of this resolution, but I will not resign. I pledge to be part of a respectful dialogue going forward and challenge my colleagues and others to do the same. I will not be canceled.”

A handful of university leaders condemned Weiser’s comments earlier last week, including Mark Schlissel, president of the university; Susan Collins, provost; and several deans. Some leaders and organizations went further, calling for Weiser’s resignation. Regents Acker, Mark Bernstein and Paul Brown asked Weiser to resign last week, as did the Michigan Democratic Party and the Leaders of Congregations of Michigan Catholic Sisters.

The executive arm of the University of Michigan's Faculty Senate -- called the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs -- also issued a statement condemning Weiser’s remarks. More than 1,800 of the university’s 7,320 faculty members endorsed the statement.

“Disrespect of women and incitement to violence against elected officials is a betrayal of the trust our community -- students, faculty and staff -- places on Regent Weiser,” the statement said. “SACUA believes strongly and without any hesitation that Regent Weiser cannot be an effective leader in our community.”

Read more by

We have retired comments and introduced Letters to the Editor. Letters may be sent to [email protected].

Read the Letters to the Editor  »

Inside Higher Ed’s Quick Takes

Back to Top