University Board of Regents & Governors Candidate Forums

    icon Oct 06, 2022
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This nonpartisan voter guide for candidates running for the University of Michigan Board of Regents, The Michigan State University Board of Regents, and the Wayne State Board of Governors  in the November 8th General Election was designed by college students from UM Ann Arbor, UM Dearborn, UM Flint, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University, who all came together to improve student voting in Michigan.

This coalition of students was led by Turn Up Turnout, a nonpartisan organization focused on student voter education, registration, and turnout.  Questionnaires were sent out to candidates months prior to the election. Any ideas expressed in the responses contained in this voter guide belong solely to the candidates listed. The REVIEW is proud to present this forum in order to assure for a more informed electorate and we hope you find it beneficial.

Please provide a short candidate bio outlining your background & qualifications.

University of Michigan Board of Regents

Candidates Michael Behm, Lena Epstein, Eric Larsen, Kathleen Oakford, Joe Sanger, and Sevag Vartainian did not respond to this questionnaire.

Please provide a short candidate bio outlining your qualifications and experience.

Sherry Wells: I am a lifelong Michigander and first generation college. I lived in Wayne, Kent, Ingham and now Oakland counties. I worked for the Dept. of Social Services before law school, Macomb Legal Aid before opening my private practice. I wrote and published 5 editions of Michigan Law for Everyone and 5 non-law-related books. A local business owner in Ferndale introduced me to his wife as a community activist and indeed I am. I ran for the State Board of Education for the Green Party from 2014 to 2018 and did my "homework." Running for U of M Board of Regents is rounding out my university education. Listening is important for public servants. I look forward to what I can learn from the students at all three of the universities.

Katherine White: I received a B.S.E. degree in electrical engineering and computer science from Princeton University, a J.D. degree from the University of Washington, a LL.M. degree in patent and intellectual property law from the George Washington University Law School and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College. From 1995-1996, I was a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Randall R. Rader, Circuit Judge (ret.), U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  I am a Brigadier General in the Army National Guard serving as the Deputy Commanding General of the 46th Military Police Command in Lansing, MI.  I am a registered patent attorney, electrical engineer, Fulbright Senior Scholar, and a White House Fellow.  I was inducted into the Michigan Military and Veterans Hall of Honor in November 2021.

What is your connection to your university? How have you maintained that connection over the years?

Wells: I earned an Assoc. in Arts at Grand Rapids Jr. College; B.A. in Education at MSU and law degree from WSU. I was always a commuter student, worked my way through with some grants and scholarships, and was a single parent for the last 4 years. I had no opportunity for a “connection” beyond attending classes and trying to find work in those fields after graduation. As a candidate for U of M Board of Regents, I am making connections by attending its meetings—I drove to St. Ignace for its July meeting—and driving through Ann Arbor earlier this month just after the football game let out, unaware that it was game day. Over the years, I appreciated events and workshops connected with all three universities, as anyone may do.

White: I have maintained my connection to the University of Michigan through my current service as a member of the University of Michigan (UM) Board of Regents.  I served as chair of the UM Board of Regents from 2008-2009, and 2013-2014.  I served as chair of the Finance, Audit, and Investment Committee from 2008-2013, and 2016-2019.  As a Regent, we write bylaws that govern the university.  This includes the recent amended and strengthened bylaws and Standard Practice Guide policies addressing sexual and gender-based misconduct

What do you see as the biggest challenge that impacts your university and what is your plan to address it?

Wells: Equitable compensation and reasonable working condition for those on the university payrolls (or should be). I attended the July nurses rally. I assume this should include student on-campus employment as well as the nurses and that those employed on the Flint Campus should have the $15 hourly minimum at the same time as those on the Dearborn campus, rather than being gradually phased in as I heard from budget reports at the June Board meeting. My plan--getting elected as someone quite different in background from much of the current Board. I’ve been making those issues part of my campaign.

White: First, quality education is central to America’s ability to remain globally competitive.  UM must engage in public/private partnerships to continue building bridges between education, science, industry and government to create synergies to improve the quality of higher education. UM is well positioned to continue to translate knowledge to solve problems of general public interest to meet societal needs.  Second, keeping UM affordable enables students from all backgrounds, with different perspectives, to enrich the academic environment and develop empathy, which often instills the courage to stand up and do the right thing.

What plans do you have to create a more equitable experience for students across all three UM campuses, if any?

Wells: Despite being a state university (though the state contribution is only a small percentage of its budget), only about half of its student body are in-state. It rarely accepts transfer students, though the Dearborn Campus began as an upper college. However, barely 30% of high school students are college-ready. I will urge the university to support a new college-readiness method that I read about in all of its campuses and also in community colleges and to open applications to students who first attend the latter. Its Genesee Early College was a start. This question has me wondering if a semester exchange program has ever been tried between the 3 campuses. I met a U of M student who is doing Summer in Detroit, but as she began telling me what I needed to know from a student perspective, the meeting started. I look forward to learning more on Sept. 30.

White: During my tenure on the Board of Regents, UM instituted the “Go Blue Guarantee,” which provides “free tuition for up to four years for high-achieving, in-state, full-time undergraduates with family incomes less than $65,000 and assets below $50,000.”  This program is now available across all three campuses:  Ann Arbor, Flint, and Dearborn.  We also significantly increased the pay for the University of Michigan Flint and Dearborn members of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization (LEO-AFT Local 6244) to address pay equity issues.  This year, we also increased funding to both the Flint and Dearborn campuses to improve the experiences at those campuses to create more equity.  Going forward, I intend to continue to find ways to improve equity across all campuses.

MSU Board of Regents

Candidates Dennis Denno, Claranna Gelineau and  Robin Laurain did not respond to this candidate forum.

Please provide a short candidate bio.

Mike Balow: I am a 50-year old resident of Plymouth Township, MI and the only candidate running who is a parent of a child at MSU.  I am married and have 3 daughters: a senior at MSU, a sophomore at UM, and a high school junior.  I am originally from Detroit (east side), where my father was a police officer and my mom a schoolteacher.  I attended the U.S. Naval Academy for my undergraduate degree and served for 7 years on active duty in the navy.  In the mid-1990’s, I was deployed to the Persian Gulf on the USS Valley Forge. For the last 20+ years, I have held a variety of positions in business, most recently as a licensed commercial real estate broker with CBRE.

Renee Knake Jefferson: I was appointed to the MSU Board of Trustees in 2019 by Governor Whitmer. As trustee, I have been a champion for change at Michigan State, demanding a new policy to evaluate presidential performance and working with other trustees and the president to replace most of the executive-level administrators from the police chief to the provost. A strong supporter of organized labor, I voted to streamline the process for employees to form new unions. I am an advocate for affordable, accessible, and inclusive education. I am a mom, ethics professor, and lawyer. After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School, I worked in private practice and as an assistant city attorney in Charlottesville, Virginia. A Fulbright recipient and elected member of the American Law Institute, I am an author of four books and numerous scholarly articles on legal/judicial ethics and equality/diversity in leadership.

Travis Menge:  I’m an orthopedic surgeon in Grand Rapids, and want to bring my common sense healthcare background to help shape a bright and successful future for MSU. I attended Michigan State for my undergraduate education, where my time there was transformative. Not only did I meet my wife Stephanie while attending school there, it is where I built my educational foundation that ultimately led me to becoming a physician. If it weren’t for the opportunities I was afforded at MSU, my life could have turned out very differently. I am passionate about ensuring future generations have those same opportunities available to them and that Michigan State remains a top institution globally. My healthcare leadership experience makes me uniquely qualified to successfully guide MSU through unexpected challenges, such as the COVID pandemic and Larry Nassar Scandal. Additionally, I want to make high quality education affordable and accessible for all Michigan students.

Max Rieske:
 Retired MI public school teacher K-12; 23 years; K-12 teaching Certif; WMU;  Not endorsed by the left wing socialist MEA; Two MA's from WMU; Previously Received  "Full Endorsement from Michigan Vaccine Freedom PAC";  No Vaccine or mask Mandate for any & all MI Universities;  It’s OK to be White.  BA from University of South Florida.

What is your connection to your university? How have you maintained that connection over the years?

Balow: My connection with MSU is through many friends who are alumni, and my daughter who is a senior at MSU.  She was also on the MSU swim and dive team before it was cut in October of 2020.  To say I have a connection with MSU would be an understatement.  I have been to every Board of Trustees meeting since November of 2020.  I am committed to the return of the swim and dive program because it was so important to so many great students, and the administration has not been honest about why it was cut and has turned down millions in alumni donations to help fund it. I will hold them accountable. MSU’s leadership has no shame, it is promoting “50 years of Title IX”, while spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyers to keep the athletes out of the pool.

Jefferson: I began my academic career at Michigan State University College of Law in 2006, where I taught for a decade. (I joined the University of Houston law faculty in 2016 as a tenured law professor and recipient of an endowed chair in legal ethics.) My husband, Wallace B. Jefferson, is an alumnus of the James Madison College at Michigan State, and his education there set him on a course to become the first African American Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas. My stepson Samuel also is a graduate. My children James and Grace have grown up on the Michigan State campus, learning to walk at Spartan Marching Band practices and now attending East Lansing public schools. Our whole family cares deeply about Michigan State, and it is an honor to serve as a trustee.

Menge: I grew up on a cattle ranch in northwest Colorado, and was fortunate to obtain a scholarship to attend MSU for my undergraduate education. Upon arriving in East Lansing, I quickly fell in love with everything MSU had to offer. From the world class educational opportunities, to diverse student life activities, I found myself truly living the dream of being an MSU Spartan. This is also where I met my wife, Stephanie, who grew up in Oakland County. Utilizing the knowledge and incredible experience I gained at MSU, I then pursued a career in medicine and specialized in orthopedic surgery. I continue to teach MSU medical students and surgical residents in the MSU College of Medicine in Grand Rapids through my role as a clinical instructor.

Rieske: Lt Colonel (Ret) US Army; 32 years; Vietnam & Iraq Veteran; CIB/ABN;BS/LOM/MSM;  No illegal alien attendance at any Michigan University & K-12 school;  No Chinese students from PRC (Red Communist) China;  Chinese students from Republic of (Free) China) OK; If elected, I will invite President Donald Trump to MSU; Re-elect Trump for a 3rd  time.

What do you see as the biggest challenge that impacts your university and what is your plan to address it?

Balow: MSU definitely does not have one biggest challenge, it has many big challenges, all of which rise or fall in perceived importance over time.  Among them are the affordability of a college degree, the  amount of debt students take on, sexual assault /Title IX issues, the honesty and transparency of the MSU administration, job placement after graduation, and more.  There is no silver bullet for any of these.  However, my approach of honesty, humility, hard work, and collaborating with people that I don’t necessarily agree with will pay big dividends in that board room.  MSU needs honest, hardworking leaders now more than ever.  I am the only candidate with a student at MSU, but even after she graduates, everything I do will be with the students of MSU first in my mind, not any special interest group on campus.

Jefferson: I believe the biggest challenge impacting Michigan State University is continuing to honor and expand upon our legacy and obligations as a public land-grant institution. My plan to address this is to continue my work as a champion of change to: (1) enhance accountability and transparency in governance; (2) prioritize diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging; (3) improve campus safety and healing, especially for survivors of sexual violence and misconduct; (4) keep tuition affordable, in particular for in-state students; and (5) increase educational and economic opportunities for all 83 of Michigan’s counties through MSU's Extension Program.

Menge: One of the biggest challenges facing MSU is the lack of transparency and accountability in leadership. Following the Larry Nassar scandal, we have failed to ensure the safety and well-being of our students is a top priority. I would bring a leadership background that is founded on transparency, honesty, and building trust within the MSU community.

Mieske: Pull back any & all benefits from former MSU woman president & ban her from all MSU campuses for life; I like what the MSU board is doing with the Woke President; Fire him. No more NeoCon Wars;  NO war with Iran; or Russia over Ukraine;  No draft to support future NeoCon wars; Individual FREEDOM.

What is your position on flat rate tuition, that is, charging students who take anywhere from 12-18 credits as though they were taking 15?

Balow: My position on flat rate tuition at MSU is that I am generally in favor of it.  I believe that it rewards students who are committed to finishing their 4-year degree in 4 years.  I would be open to “tweaks” in the policy, whereby students who have a good reason to take, say, only 12 hours could only get charged for those 12 hours, but I think that would be on a case-by-case basis.  In general, I like the fact that if a student would like to take more than 15 hours, then they are getting those credits “for free”.  It's time students had a voice on the Board of Trustees who speak for THEM!

Jefferson: I am always open to and interested in hearing student concerns, whether about tuition, or any other issues. Affordable tuition, especially for households earning $125,000 or less, is a top priority for me. MSU implemented a block tuition model in 2019, prior to my appointment to the Board. (Undergraduate students taking 12-18 credit hours are charged a flat rate for tuition. A student taking 19 or more credits is charged the flat rate for the first 18 credit hours plus an additional per credit hour rate for each credit over 18. Students taking 11 or fewer credits are charged per credit hour.) The use of a block tuition model is designed to encourage students to graduate within four years, thus reducing overall costs for students who might otherwise be forced to extend their education into additional years and pay more for room and board, books, and other college-related expenses.

Menge: Reducing the cost of tuition is very important in higher education. While many people will talk about trying to reduce costs, I believe that is only half of the equation. I want to work on improving the overall value of education at MSU. Value takes into account both lowering costs, as well as improving the quality of education offered.

Mieske: FREE SPEECH on campus; As to flat rate tuition for 12 - 18 hours vs other;  I've done both & like both;  NO Antifa; communists; BLM/CRT/PRC/FBI/BATF/NSA/Woke or wonk's on campus. Repeal 16th Amendment - communist Federal Income tax; go with either or both Flat & or Fair tax;  Michigan Nonprofits with Woke agenda pay 50% income tax; with money earmarked towards helping MI University students; AND MI Poor with food; housing; gas; medical & child care .AX the TAX - VOTE for MAX   NO MI Income tax.

Wayne State University Board of Governors

Candidates Danielle Akinson, Bruce Jaquays,  Christa Murphy and Craig Wilsher did not respond to this forum.

Please provide a short candidate bio.

Marilyn Kelly: I am currently a member and the immediate past chair of the Wayne State Board of Governors running for reelection. I teach at Wayne’s law school. I am also a retired judge of the state Court of Appeals and a retired justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. For two years of my terms on that Court, I was the Chief Justice. In addition, I served 12 years on the Michigan State Board of Education, 2 years as its Chair.  I have been on numerous other boards. At present, I am on the board of the Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester.

Susan Odgers: I am a member of the Green Party  and Professor at the Northwestern MI College and varied/universities for 35 years. Guest instructor U of M-School of Pharmacy and Architecture. Instructor at Univ. of Nice, FR. Currently teaching. Personally know what going to school under Covid is like.

Columnist since 2008 Traverse City Record Eagle. Chair of MI Writers, Chair of Traverse Area District Library board, 2010 Traverse City Humanitarian of the Year, Immediate past chair & member of the TC Human Rights Commission and many other volunteer efforts. Twice awarded the prestigious WSU Thomas Rumble Doctoral Fellowship

What is your connection to your university? How have you maintained that connection over the years?

Kelly: I’m a graduate of Wayne’s law school and am currently its Distinguished Jurist in Residence, a member of the law school Board of Visitors, on the alumni Wall of Fame, recipient of the University’s Honored Alumni Award, and the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Wayne. I’m proud to have established a scholarship that, for the past 9 years, has funded the education of Wayne law students who plan to do public service or government work after graduation.

Odgers: Ran for WSU board of Governors in 2020, received nearly 100k votes statewide. Donating to and supporting alumni groups. Supporting WSU Press, South End newspaper and WDET. Attending and speaking at board meetings. Speaking with lots of different students and faculty...extensive outreach

Attending a wide variety of programs on-campus. Best activity: Advising possible applicants to WSU as to why this might be a great choice for them.  Most I speak with, select WSU.

What do you see as the biggest challenge that impacts your university and what is your plan to address it?

Kelly: Budgetary priorities are hiring excellent faculty, providing student supportive services, and upgrading classroom buildings. I would cut back on spending for outdated curricular offerings.

Odgers: End the wave of hiring too many administrators. Some wages are way too high, others too low.  More rights/resources for adjunct faculty, staff and TA's.  Student loan justice - cut monies supporting the treadmill of student debt.

Like many of Michigan's public universities, Wayne State University is facing budgetary difficulties. Where would you like to see the University place its budgetary priorities? Where do you think the University can afford to cut back on spending?

Kelly: The biggest challenge facing Wayne State University is finding alternative sources of revenue so that tuition and fees can be lowered.  I am very dissatisfied with the level of financial support the State provides the University. Michigan ranks 44th in the nation in the amount the State appropriates per capita to higher education students. Article VIII Section 4 of the Michigan constitution requires the State to “maintain” the University. In 2002, the State provided 75% of Wayne’s financial revenue. Today, it provides only 21%. Wayne State is a child of the State of Michigan. The State is starving its child. I will work to lower tuition and fees by finding alternate revenue. I will work also to impress on the State Legislature the importance of again providing 75% of our financial needs.

Odgers:  Hiring the new president of the WSU. I have extensive search committee experience. Rare opportunity...chance to start fresh.  Student representative seat on the board. It's key students have a say in the selection.  Implementation of the New Strategic Plan 2022-2027 “Our Moment in Time”. Higher education is too corporatized, needs to be more focused on climate change and return to the models of rigorous student led engagement.  Climate change isn't coming, it's here. Address with resources and true commitment. Social justice issues high priority. True change, not lip service.  Today's students have new, important ways of getting things done. Connect the entire state of MI more to WSU, not just metro Detroit.  WSU supporters are everywhere.  End the two-party system on the board. Life is not binary.  I'll bring a perspective meant for today's academic world.     


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