Candidates Mike Behm, Rob Steele, Ronald Weiser, and Regent Kathy White answer questions composed by representatives of the League, Ford School students, and the audience. Moderated by Susan Smith, President of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. October, 2014.
[ Inaudible Discussion ]
>> Good afternoon everybody and welcome. It's wonderful to have you here this afternoon. I'm Susan Collins, the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean here at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. And we've all been looking forward to this event this afternoon. We're very honored that Susan Smith who is the President of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. And she's also the moderator for today's program as the Ford School to work together with the league to host this special event today. The League of Women Voters is a non partisan organization which sponsors candidate forms to help raise policy awareness through education and advocacy. And that really is an important service for our community and so, we're delighted to be partnering with them. I'd also like to acknowledge Professor John Chamberlain who helped to connect the League and the Ford School. In addition, it's my pleasure to recognize the student organizations that are assisting us and working with us today. And in particular, they are the domestic policy core, the Rackham Student Government and the Students of Color at Rackham. And so, we're delighted to have representatives from each of those organizations here with us. Well, of course, today's event wouldn't be possible if our candidates were not willing to join us this afternoon. And so, it's wonderful to have Regent Kathy White, Ambassador Ron Weiser, Rob Steele, Mike Behm, thank you all for joining us. We will be introducing you more formally in just a few moments. So Susan Smith will do those introductions. But I would like to remind our audience who are watching live on live webstream that you can tweet your questions into us. Please use the hashtag regions--sorry, regions forum is the hashtag. And for those of you who are in the audience, you should have received cards, there will be volunteers who will be coming down the isles to collect your cards for the question part of the session which of course is so important. And with that, it's my pleasure to turn things over to Susan Smith.
[ Applause ]
>> Thank you Dean Collins. And good afternoon everybody and welcome. The League is pleased to be having this opportunity to cosponsor this forum along with the Ford School and the student organizations. The League is a non partisan organization. We do not support or oppose candidates or parties. I would like to take just a minute to introduce the candidates and then I will explain the format we're going to be using this afternoon. We have Mike Behm first on my left. Ron Weiser, I'm sorry, start--failed already. Rob Steele, Ron Weiser and Kathy White. They will have an opportunity, each of them to make an opening remark and then we will have the questions. And then at the end, they will have an opportunity to make closing remarks. The order in which they make the opening remarks and the closing remarks was predetermined by drawing from a hat before you all arrived. We have timers here from the league this afternoon to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to speak. So, 15 seconds before the time is up, the league member will hold up that sign and then at the end, the stop sign. And after that, a hook comes out from the side and we drag them up. I'm sure everybody will observe the time limit. Questions are important and I believe you were given cards when you came in, please fill them out and students will come around and put those questions up and give them to our screening committee which is sitting down here on the front of the room. The screening committee is made up of representatives from the league and the student organizations. And that's so that we can avoid duplication of questions. And as Dean Collins pointed out, if you want to tweet your questions, you can do so. And those questions will also be submitted to the review committee. We have an hour and 15 minutes, I will ensure that the time limits are observed. And I'm pleased then that we are going to begin the first opening statement with Mr. Steele.
>> Thank you all for the opportunity to be here at Ford School and all the other groups that are helping to sponsor this along with the League of Women Voters. My name is Dr. Rob Steele. And I guess for my brief introduction here, I'll just make the comment that when you look at the board of regions there's eight members and they all should bring different strengths and weaknesses so they can cover for each other and make sure that the university activities are covered. I graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School when I was 23 years old, served 20 years on the faculty at the university, in charge of the major rotation, so very involved in medical education. In my private practice out of St. Joe's help found that practice, 320 employees were in fine and some benefits, so I have some experience there. And also, we've been engaged in the clinical research and I've been literally involved in dozens and dozens of research projects. And since the budget at the university is 6.9 billion and the health center is 3.6 billion, I will bring an absolute unique qualification to the team there at the board.
>> Thank you.
>> Mr. Weiser.
>> My name is Ron Weiser and I'm running for Regents. I'm running for one term. I'm running because I think I can make a difference. I've been involved with the university since 1963 when I started school here. And 25 years later, I became heavily involved with the university. I was able to help initiate three major programs and work peripherally on others. And I'm happy to talk about that later on. But I believe that I can make a difference. I believe that because problem facing the university now is the unrelenting growth in tuition and how that can be reduced without reducing the excellence and tradition of the university is one of the major problems that's faced in the future. And I think I bring the qualifications to help the university--help guide the university in finding solutions to that problem. Thank you.
>> OK, thank you. Mr. Behm.
>> Hi everyone. My name is Mike Behm. First, I like to thank Dean Collins. I'd like to thank Ms. Smith for moderating here today. I'm an attorney. My office is up in Flint, in the middle part of the state. I graduated from the university with a BA in English in 1989 and graduated from Wayne State in 1992 from law school. In my 23 years as being an attorney, I've sort founded a lot of my practice on finding consensus with people. In addition to being an attorney, I founded--I'm a chairperson of a group called Business Forward. And basically what Business Forward does is takes local voices to Michigan and from Michigan to Washington DC. And lets Washington know our thoughts in how to increase our economical recovery. I think that's important in a place like University of Michigan with the Open Meetings Act. That's something we'll talk about and how to bring more voices and also the top issue, I'm sure we'll discuss is affordability and accessibility right here at the university. And so, those I think would be my top two priorities and I'm willing to discuss them today. Thank you.
>> Thank you. Ms. White.
>> Thank you. And I want to thank everyone who's put these together today. It's a wonderful opportunity to speak to all of you. My name is Kathy White. I'm the current Chair of the University of Michigan, Board of Regents. And my top priority has always been to maintain and improve the educational and institutional quality at the University of Michigan on all three campuses Ann Arbor, Flint, Dearborn. And with such quality education, it is important to keep the University of Michigan affordable. And at the relative amount of state funding has decreased, policies to keep the University of Michigan affordable have to be in place. And the reason why affordability is so important is because we have to have students from all different backgrounds with different perspectives who are in an environment that is an enriching academic environment through which they can engage with each other and share ideas. And during my tenure on the board, the University of Michigan has increased financial aid commensurate with any tuition increase for instate students. Thank you.
>> All right, we'll turn then to the questions. And the first person to answer will be Mr. Behm. And here's the question. What challenges will the university be facing in the next 10 years and how would you address them?
>> Well, I think first, we've all mentioned it it's affordability and accessibility. I grouped those two items together because I think they go together. When you talk about affordability and just look at things like what Pell Grants used to cover two and a half decades ago, Pell Grant covered roughly 80 percent of school for student and now at only 25 percent. So I think one of the things that's occurred, there's a study out two years ago that talks about in Michigan 39 percent of students--of college students at the universities, public and private, in Michigan receive need-based loans, but only 13 percent here at the University of Michigan received need-based loans.
^M00:10:07 I think that's reflective of two things. The university not--Well, it needs to increase the picture in the group of students that come here to Michigan to make an opportunity here and make college education affordable, so we're not--when we graduate looking over our shoulders for fear of, you know, heading into bankruptcy. The university produces these students and the students should be able to move into the job market without looking over their shoulder. So I think that's an extremely important issue here. And there are a couple of ways we need to go about it, one that I would look at would be if we can't get more money from the state to look at loaning money to students from the university here.
>> Thank you. Dr. Steele, challenges and how would you address them?
>> I think we all agree that access and affordability are two. I'll throw one in after I make a comment on affordability and access. The--When you want to compare whether or not it's affordable, just look at a part time job. It used to be when I was in school you could have a part time job and pay for school, that's obviously going by the way side. Accessibility is a disaster for students from the State of Michigan, 46 percent of the students are now from out of state. State of Michigan taxpayers have invested billions and billions and billions of dollars. We have students with perfect SAT scores from the State of Michigan are not accepted. That's intolerable. These students leave the state, they never return. State of Michigan has gotten older faster than Florida. We have more people under age 40 leaving the state than any of the state in the union. So we need to make sure our qualified students get in. Affordability, we'll take care of it a couple of different ways. For three years I've campaigned on the great job that the administrators and donors like Ambassador Weiser have done in creating this endowment. To use the endowment as the bank for student loans rather than federal funds to help restrain tuition and align the interests of the donors, the students, the university and the educational project--product they receive. Another big thing is these buildings. I know people who run a business know they don't close it for four months out of the year. We should sell the tuition in the summer time cheaper. We should get our students in on a cut rate discount tuition to get them through school faster with less debt and fewer housing cost and help reduce the or help change the dynamic of the capital cost structure of the university by using the buildings 12 months, 12 instead of 8.
>> Thank you. Mr. Weiser.
>> Well, the question was what the problems are not necessarily solutions. Now, I think there are many solutions to the issues that face the university. And I believe that's what the responsibility of the Regents are is to make sure that the university is adhering to its mission that the major strategies are in place to advance that mission and that the university's officers and deans and others in the faculty are in--are heading towards that strategy and making sure that that strategy is being utilized for the purpose--the purposes for which they were intended. Once that can be done and accomplished, then each of the challenges that all these two gentlemen have talked about and I believe that Kathy will talk about can be addressed. There are many, many different ways to look at the affordability issue. The budget of the university and we can talk about State of Michigan cuts but forgetting everything else, it's grown so much more rapidly than inflation over the years. It's made a huge difference in the lives of not just the students when they graduate where there's heavy debt, but with their families and the burden put on families to--for students to afford to be able to come to this great university. So solutions have to be found to that. And there are many. And I have literature out, you can look at my website, I mean some of those are solutions, but those are just ideas. And in the end run, it has to be the leadership of the university, the president and the officers and the deans who are able to bring about the change that will be necessary and it won't be easy.
>> Thank you. Ms. White, challenges over the next 10 years, how would you address them?
>> Well, I think it's unanimous. We all think accessibility and affordability in the near term, certainly even 10 years is going to be one of the greatest challenges. What the board has done thus far we have along with the administration, we're raising a billion dollars and financial aid or scholarships and fellowships for students. We've already raised 440 million of that. So, I think we're on track to do that and hopefully we can do even more. This endowment would, of course, sustain the ability to continue to provide financial aid at a higher level to make things more affordable for our students. Also, I'm a big proponent of trying to get veterans to be coming to our university as well. They provide a lot of different perspective. And I spearheaded the move to have them get in-state tuition because sometimes they have a--their benefits are tied to having in-state tuition. I want to make the place more accessible for veterans as well. There's a lot of different ways in which we can continue to work on cost cutting. We've cut 289 million to the base budget since 2004. And another 120 million are--is going to be cut between the period of 2007 to 2013. I'm sorry, 2013 to 2017, another 120 million. And in the budget for this year is 24 million dollars and cuts to the base budget. So--And the other--I have to stop. You got me just in time.
>> All right. Thank you. The first person to answer this question, the next question will be Dr. Steele. And it has to do with diversity. What does a diverse U of M look like to you? Is that important? How would your opinion on diversity frame your approach to being a Regent?
>> Well, certainly diversity is important. That's been recognized by many different groups who have studied higher education. We also have to take into account that diversity means many different things. We do know from the voters in the state, various changes of the current constitutions, the Supreme Court has ruled that raise base aspect diversity can not be a sole determinant, so that issue is kind of directly out of our hands. I agree with Regent White, one of the things that I've campaigned on to help improve diversity is to recruit veterans on the GI building in a more mature group of students, the group of students that have discipline and have planning in their--in how they do things. And I think that's critical. There's no question that diversity encompasses many different things. My daughter is a freshman at the University of Chicago. And during their orientation session, they--during their week-long orientation, one of the things they did in some of their various questionnaires was about people's attitudes. And at the University of Chicago, there were 6 percent of the students that self-identified them as conservatives and 47 percent have identified themselves as liberal. So we know we have an issue with diversity on that as well. But we need to fix K through 12 if we want to improve the strong issue that we have with affirmative action type diversity. And one thing the university absolutely can do for this pool of students is be far more aggressive with their grants and stipends. We're competing against Stanford and Harvard. And we have to be able to say that these few students who are available, you're in and there's no cost attached.
>> Thank you. Mr. Weiser.
>> Given the constraints of the constitution, Michigan constitution, and the laws that are in place, the university has to strive to find ways to have a diverse population of students here because it enhances the educational experience, it creates greater opportunities for research, and the interaction of research, there's many, many reasons why that's important. Finding a way to do that is really a charge of the Regents and the executive officers. Diversity in economic background quite often can bring about diversity of other types. And whether it's a poor family from the Upper Peninsula or a poor family from the city of Detroit or Flint or Muskegon or Lancing or Ann Arbor for that matter, having the ability to bring, not only bring students here in a way where they can afford this university and understand, and their families understand they can afford this university. But--And also to leave without a huge burden. But also, those students have to be brought here in a way where they can be--if they are not adequately prepared because quite often the backgrounds, the less economic, disadvantaged backgrounds means they don't have the educational background to succeed here or the environmental background. We need to make sure that not only do we have diverse students but they have the opportunity to succeed here. There's nothing worst than having a student come and then fail.
>> All right. Thank you, Ms. White.
>> Diversity is extremely important, all types of diversity, racial and ethnic diversity along with people with disabilities which I'm really focused on lately to make sure that we're including people with disabilities in our definition of diversity. And socioeconomic diversity is very important because when you are faced with learning in a classroom environment, the way in which you can understand from other perspectives the challenges that are happening for other people means that you're going to have a better ability to face and tackle ill structured problems that are very difficult to find solutions to.
^M00:20:09 And you want to start by having students learn early that people who are different from them can provide a perspective that they're not familiar with. And so, diversity is extremely important. One way, we have to continue to do a lot of the diversity of course is making the University of Florida of which we've already talked about. But also we are challenged with making sure we have enough outreach to encourage students who are very well qualified to come here that they can afford it. And that they should come here and this is an open place that is tolerant and is welcoming and wants to have the most talented students it can at this university. And so, we need to continue to do more and I'm committed to do that.
>> Thank you. Mr. Behm.
>> These two issues are intertwined affordability and accessibility. And what I mean by that is if you can not afford tuition, then the university is not accessible to you. Also from a racial standpoint, I believe if you took a picture of the State of Michigan and the people in it, this is a state university and the picture of the student body should reflect the state. We need to improve that, you know, for example there's 14 percent African-American population in the State of Michigan, there's 4 percent here at the university that needs to be fixed. Like everyone has talked about, there are ways to go about this within the Gratz and Grutter decisions that the university now has to, you know, abide by. The economic issue, I mentioned those numbers about 13 percent of the students here are receiving need-based grants and 39 across the state. That is a problem that needs to be fixed. Like everyone has mentioned, you see these students, I'm a big brother for example, I have two little brothers who are in fifth grade, they're absolutely smart enough to eventually come to school here, but they don't have the tools and the--they're not afforded the ability to get those tools. And I think we really need to look into potential outreach programs from the university and from the three branches. I see the students at U of M quite often and they're looking forward to--and they're looking into an outreach program into local students. I think that's a way to prepare the students to attend school here.
>> Thank you. Mr. Weiser you'll be first this time and the question has to do with sexual assaults. What can Michigan do to improve its responses to sexual assaults on campus? What policies would you support to change the culture on campus to help prevent sexual violence and to make our community safer for all students?
>> Well, the policies have to be developed by a combination of the university leadership as well as the students together because I think the students themselves will have the best input as to what they feel they need in order to prevent this horrendous action continuing. And we know they're continuing. We know the high percentages of rapes and other types of aggressive behavior that have taken place on campus not just this campus but campuses across United States. So I believe it's the job of the Regents of the university to encourage a dialogue between the executive leadership, the deans, the students, the student leadership to find solutions that will work for everyone. I mean you can come up with different ideas, but those are the tactics and quite frankly the Regents aren't responsible for tactics, they're responsible for making sure that the strategies that are necessary to accomplish this goal are in place and that the tactics that are necessary to fulfill the desires of the students and of their parents and of the university as a whole are being implemented. So I didn't give any answers as to specific things because I don't think that's the responsibility of a Regent. I believe that has to come from a different place.
>> Thank you. Ms. White.
>> The problems of sexual assault on campuses across the country as well as on this campus is a very, very serious matter. And the policies in place have to be looked at constantly to make sure that they not only help with preventing sexual assault from happening again, but also to make sure that there's education and there's a way for the students who have been assaulted and harmed by this to get counseling and are able to receive treatment. Also, one of the things that is really important to help prevent these issues is bystander intervention. And culture change on campus to make sure that people understand that it's all of our responsibility not just the individuals but all of our responsibility to help prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault from occurring. And the Regents, their role is again as--and as Ambassador Weiser said it's not to handle the tactics, but it is to provide an environment where innovative ideas and support can come funding, can come to help tackle these very difficult issues. Alcohol and drugs often are--coincide with sexual violence. And so, we have to not only tackle the sexual assault issues but also dealing with some of the alcohol issues as well. And that's part of the policy issues that the board would have to engage in.
>> Thank you. Mr. Behm.
>> I think first and foremost, the environment needs to change. They're across college campuses, this isn't a problem that's just, you know, here at U of M campus, it's across all college campuses. And you can't ignore this problem. I think too many times the survivor of the assault is made to feel ignored, made to feel that they should be quite and not pursue this. The university first and foremost needs to put a plan together to protect the rights of the survivor of the assault. And the voice of that survivor needs to be heard. I think once a policy like that is put in place, then the environment changes and like everyone has mentioned, policies need to go into place where things like that you would know beforehand what will occur. I think too many times in this day and age, people either consciously or subconsciously have the feeling that nothing will occur if something like this happens. The assault, the person who's making the assault feels as though not much will occur and the survivor after the assault feels that way, the same that nothing will occur, so why should they do something about it? And we do need to do something about it, we need to address it, bring it in to light and fix this problem.
>> Thank you. Dr. Steele.
>> With any major problem, in the medical field, you always need robust data. You can't make a decision until you have robust data. And I think there is certainly an under current concern over this issue. There is a problem, there is no question, there's a problem. But the raw data in the data involved in the true nature of the problem, the scope of the problem and how the problem is to be addressed is clearly lacking. The problem has exploded since the recent famous May Letter [assumed spelling] from the department--Office of Civil Rights, Department of Justice and Department of Education. And clearly the response of many of these universities have been problematic, you know, that incredible conservative Alan Dershowitz and Charles Ogletree just published an [inaudible] in the Boston newspaper castigating the Harvard policy which is almost identical to ours which they felt totally left the accused without any rights, whatsoever. So we have a difficult act here. There is no question. I think one way to help which may be a tactic, I think there's no question. I have a great concern about a campus on campus reporting line of reporting with campus police. I think it causes the opportunity that maybe interest aren't aligned and that sometimes people don't want to report. I mean, certainly the administrators don't want to be reporting more. Certainly someone who's reporting a problem doesn't want to be reporting. And I think the university needs to look into hiring outside legal--outside enforcement whether it's the city, county or state and get out of the business of having their own campus police force.
>> All right. Thank you. The next question first answered by Ms. White. It has to do with including students and university decision making. In February 2011, the Regents voted to delete the section "student input" in a university decision making from their bylaws. In July of 2013, the Regents formed a presidential search advisory committee and did not include student representation on it. As a Regent, how will you solicit student input? What will you do to better ensure that students are a part of the university's decision making process?
>> Well, I actually had to do this. So I had to deal with this because I'm on the board and was part of the decision not to put students on the presidential search advisory committee and had to work very well with the students to make sure that their input was heard. Our decision to do that was because we needed to keep the committee relatively small so it's manageable. The--There were lot of groups we didn't have on the search committee. We had mainly Ann Arbor faculty. But we did work with the students. The president then Mike Proppe was very helpful along with Bobby Dishell, he's the current President of CSG. They got survey that was incredible that took into account all student views of what they were looking for in a president. And I think we actually, we're able to find one that had most of their concerns addressed. And so, what you have to do is to engage the students early on, talk about how to make sure that their views do get heard, talk with the student leaders and have them work out ways that we can do the outreach. And stay in constant contact and communication with the students. The students will tell you exactly what they want, just listen, that's been my experience.
>> Thank you. Mr. Behm.
>> I think this is a very important issue. It goes hand in hand with the Open Meetings Act issues that have come up this--in the past and the litigation this summer. I think there are some constitutional constraints here in Michigan due to the constitution we have and how it's created the boards. And so, you would need an amendment or a constitutional convention, many people say to add someone as a Regent. That being the case and with how well our legislators get along with another and lancing, I don't know that that would occur. So if was voted in as a Regent, I would regularly meet with students. If the CSG wanted to put a group together to advice, I would want to meet with them regularly. I would also extend that to other issues that have come up from supports of the athletic department, faculty members, also members at the two branch campuses, I think they all have voices they need to be heard. I mentioned my involvement with Business Forward because it's very similar to this. Sometimes, you know, we see politicians in Washington DC sort of act in a bubble and not making informed decisions. They need more voices. It's the same here with the board. If the board here has more voices and interacts with more voices, I think it'll make more informed decisions.
>> Thank you. Dr. Steele.
>> Thank you Mike for that question wherever you are sitting. I was actually a nominee for this position in the last election as well. And one of my big issues at that time was what has now been proven to be a big issue with the lawsuits over the Open Meeting Act. I proposed at that time, three years ago regular public office hours. And these public office hours wouldn't just be for faculty, students, administrators and anyone else, it could also be for the residents of the city and the city administrators because if there's a problem that we have with transparency and accountability here at the University of Michigan, it also has to do with the relationship between the university and the city. So, I will have regular open--regular schedule office hours. So the students will certainly be welcome to come in there. Also, knowing that the taxpayer support this university, imagine if the governor, the attorney general, secretary of state and our two US senators had no way that you could get to them on a regular basis. So unconscionable. I'll also have regular open office hours throughout the state rotating through congressional districts every month. And this isn't just for republicans and democrats only. This is for everyone. We know that republicans and democrats particularly at the K12 and moving into the university level, we agree on all these issues, affordability, access, we want our kids to have the best. We want them to stay here in the state of Michigan so that we're not chasing our grand kids all over the state. So, I'll be welcome and ready to meet with the students because I'll have regular public office hours here and throughout the state. Thank you.
>> Thank you. Mr. Weiser.
>> Well, my wife says this quite often. She's on the State Board Of Education. Quite unfortunately at times we forget that schools and the university is a school is about the students and not about the adults. And if it is about the students, then their input in their own futures I think is important because without that input, we will be guiding them the way that we think it should be rather than necessarily--and not necessarily on what they need or feel that they need. Now, I understand that adult and people who get around longer as I have supposedly have more experience than no more. But the world has changed so rapidly what those needs are and what the kids want to have is their educational experience which will allow them to go fort from this university and help change the world may not be what we think it is. And so that input is important. And as a Regent, I believe that it's important that we support and make sure that the leadership of the university has the processes in place to make sure that all the areas of the university whether it be a professor or a dean or a vice president or the president of the university whoever the leadership is has the opportunity and the students have the opportunity to have the input before decisions are made.
>> Thank you. Mr. Behm, you'll be first to answer the next question. It has to do with climate change. Do you support the U of M divesting from fossil fuels and what should be the university's response to climate change?
>> I do support that. It's interesting just in the past few weeks how many politicians dodged that question by saying, I'm not a scientist. But then they're more than willing to give an opinion on the Ebola problems that we've seen. So, it can't be something that's just convenient. I think climate change is a fact. And when it comes to economics and policy like that, there are so many jobs that can be produced from looking at climate and making some corrections in getting away from fossil fuel dependency. When I have a family who lives up in the middle of the state and you see many of the windmills in the wind farms there, and that's just one, you know, small example. So I do think we need to divest from fossil fuels. I think it is a job maker. And I think a place like the University of Michigan like it's doing should get out and lead on this issue versus trailing behind.
>> Thank you. Dr. Steele.
>> The answer is no. Absolutely I would not divest from fossil fuels. In fact I am a scientist and the data on this issue is not robust. When a theory is proved wrong, it takes only one small piece of data. When Einstein's theory was recently proven not to be quite accurate, it wasn't the most minute piece of data that you could possible comprehend in the world of physics, but yet, it proved the theory wrong. And what we have seen over and over and over is that we have no predictable model yet, we have no predictable theory, we do know we have an issue that needs study and careful attention. There's no question about it. But the answer is no, you know, we shouldn't be a leader in doing research. We should be a leader in coming up with solutions that are environmentally sustainable regardless of what the issues surrounding climate change are because we want to have efficient energy use in a sustainable environmental policy regardless of the final answer on climate change. But it's clear with 18 years of no warming that it is not a proven theory, there's just no question about it.
>> Thank you. Mr. Weiser.
>> Well, the university as we all know is one of the leading research institutions not just in the country, in the world. And solving these problems of making sure that we have adequate energy supplies for ourselves, our families and the population of this country in the world is one of the biggest challenges we face. And so, one of the things we can do to solve this problem is to invest here in the university in research and focus on research that will determine ways that this problem can be solved. I'm not quite sure what divesting in fossil fuels mean. Does that mean that we sell--ask the--we ask the--if they have it. If we ask the endowment to sell their Detroit Edison stock who is burning fossil fuels but also creating windmills at the same time. Is that what we do? So they don't have the capital to clean up their fossil fuel facilities until substitutes can be found. So I'm not quite sure what the purpose of that is. And it had--Doing these things on across the board basis is never a good solution. I think the university has to make wise investments. But on the other hand, to make--to do things across the board when the real goal is to find solutions is not the best way to accomplish that goal.
>> Ms. White.
>> Well, I do believe climate change is a real problem. And I think that it's very important that we tackle it as a nation as well as having universities do research to improve the way we get energy so it doesn't harm the environment as substantially as fossil fuels do. I do not think divesting from fossil fuels and the endowment at this point makes sense. University of Michigan has divested in two situations. One was against South Africa to protest the devastating and degrading segregation policies of South Africa. And the other was in tobacco products which uniformly everyone agrees is they're very unhealthy and it has created a lot of health problems in our society. And there's no doubt that climate change is a real problem and that eventually, you know, we've got to do something because it's really going to affect us. The question is, does divesting our portfolio make sense at that--at this point? And I have the same issue that Ambassador Weiser has which is what does it mean because a lot of the same companies that are doing a lot of the fossil fuel problems are also investing in green energy. Also, the other problem is our entire global economy is tied up in fossil fuels. And it just is not something that we are all as a global community settled on whereas I think we were all settled that segregation and slavery was bad.
>> Thank you. Dr. Steele, you'll be first to get the next question. And it has to do with the City of Detroit. With growing national and international attention given to the City of Detroit and the university proximity 45 minutes west and roots originally founded in the city. What expanded role can insure the university play in the City of Detroit?
>> Well, the university should play a large role. You know, one of the main things the university needs to do is get a better return in investment to these taxpayers in the state of Michigan whether that's to help Detroit or helping get our kids into school and then staying in the state and helping create a vibrant future economy because as Regent White was just has just mentioned as regards to energy is the way to solve poverty. Keeping the young motivated people here with good education is the way that we're going to solve all the problems. We've seen in Detroit right now a real renaissance with rapidly escalating rents in certain pockets of the city where the highly educated young people are actually going there and doing incubation that start up companies. And so, the university right now, the key thing they can do to help in the university is through the K through 12 educational process. It's completely broken there, it's out of control. And, you know, they haven't had a college ready student come from hundreds, 200, I think it's 280 different high schools in the state of Michigan have not have a college ready student in over 20 years. And so, the University of Michigan can do a great deal by helping to foster both the technological and economic startup things through the business school with the public policy school here. But then also through the education school and making sure that the K through 12 problem is fixed there with creative solutions that aren't tied to, you know, old ways that are proven not to work and been broken. And that's one of the key things on the Board of Regents is we need to make sure we're answering the solution of the problem and not the constituencies.
>> Thank you. Mr. Weiser.
>> Detroit is an important part of our state. And trying to help Detroit is important. It's convenient because they are close as it was pointed out. But do we tell that the citizens and the people of Pontiac and Flint and Muskegon and Marquette. I mean people have been suffering in Upper Peninsula for a long time also. Do we tell them that the university does--cares more about Detroit than about them? Yes, I think it's a good opportunity for our students because it's close and our students can go there and interact in the kinds of organizations that are helping it in--helping in Detroit. The Ginsberg Center has a number of people who interact with Detroit kids with Detroit problems. But Detroit is not the only place we have problems in the state. And we do have a duty and responsibility not only to the rest of the country and the world bust especially to the state because we are a state institution. So, yes, we should to the extent that we can, and the extent we have the resources and the extent that students have the--had the willingness and the focus to be able be involved in Detroit. It's a great opportunity for us. But let's not forget the rest of the state.
>> Thank you. Ms. White.
>> Well, Detroit is not only an important city in the state of Michigan it's an important city for the nation and the world because it was basically the birth of how we were going to do in middle class in this country. And so, University of Michigan should be very committed to the city of Detroit. The K through 12 situation is probably the best way in which we can have some effect. The important thing though is that the university, when we engage, we engage invited in areas in which we are welcome, where we can work in partnership. There has been some concern that University of Michigan is taking over the city of Detroit. And we have to be very careful that we don't do that. I actually work at Wayne State University and so, it's important that we realized there are other institutions as well that are involved in the city of Detroit. But we should definitely use our expertise and ways that especially our ability to do a lot of research in areas that maybe some of the other institutions in the state are not able to do or not currently choosing to do. We should be involved in the city of Detroit.
>> Thank you. Mr. Behm.
>> I agree with what many of us have said so far in this issue. I think it comes down to outreach and I would add this to the same extent with the branch campuses in Flint and Dearborn. I think many of the students here on campus can serve as mentors to the young students. When you see--When young students see someone who has made it through college and is successful in college it provides a huge boost to that young student. Many students that have never seen anyone that's gone, you know, that is in college or has been to college, they don't see as it being a possible goal. So I think there's a lot of potential there. But I think in issues like Regent White said that it needs to be in area where we are invited to pursue but things like urban planning, revitalization, the school of education here with outreach programs to the students in Detroit makes a huge difference. And I think there are many voids right now where we would not be stepping on toes, so to speak, but would provide a lot of great, you know, skills to these young students in the K through 12 areas.
>> All right. Thank you. Mr. Weiser, you'll be first this time. And this question has to do with shared services as a way of reducing cost. What is your opinion on shared services? What other possible methods of cost control can the university employ? Should the university be attempting to lower cost? Or will that inevitably compromise educational quality?
>> University of Michigan is--I one time had the opportunity to win--to work in a much bigger bureaucracy than the University of Michigan. It was called the state department. And bureaucracies are not much different any place in the world. They are not inherently efficient. There is opportunities for changing the cost and without reducing the quality. That can involve a lot of things. Now I have an accounting background, I have a business background, I have a finance background. I took every accounting course the university had, graduate and undergraduate when I was here and it served me well. But that process is a long term process because it's cultural change. And changes in the way that we budget which is essentially [inaudible] budgeting, top down and not bottom up budgeting. There are a lot of things that have to be changed but it takes change. That change is a cultural change that takes the leadership of the university to--and the people who are going to be affected by that change to all be a part of it. So it's not easy. It's slow, but it can be accomplished. Can you say 3 percent of bureaucracy? Can you say 5 percent? Those things are all possible. So there are a lot of techniques. As I said, there are a lot of, you know, there are a lot of different ways to approach these problems. But yes, you can cut cost without reducing excellence. In fact, you can cut cost and use that money to increase excellence.
>> Thank you. Ms. White.
>> Well, the University of Michigan may be the most decentralized organization on the planet. But decentralization has brought the academic excellence to this institution because people are able to control a little bit better how to pursue their research, would they raise money and funds, they can keep it in their departments where their expertise is and it doesn't go out to do other places.
^M00:50:09 And so, decentralization has increased the excellence of the academic mission. The key is really to be able to leverage the size of the institution to get economies of scale, to have shared services that make sense. But the only way to do that effectively is you really have to have robust conversations with the faculty about how to do the shared services. And we had a mishap on--I think we've all acknowledge that that did not happen. And in my understanding is it's happening better now. And if it's not, I want people to tell me that it's not because what we have to do is find ways to save money where redundancies do not make sense. But sometimes, we don't only make these miss decisions, we make decisions that will enhance the academic quality. And that is the important part of our mission as well.
>> Thank you Ms. White. Mr. Behm.
>> I think this is an area where there can be a lot of improvement. I served on a cultural center board with much smaller budget, a $50 million budget, but there were a music school, an art institute which were next door in proximity and they of course all thought that they didn't share any services with one another until it was brought to their attention that many things from their healthcare plan. So everything that they purchased and those were examples of shared services. I think this takes a lot of communication between the different parts of the university. And when you have the communication, then you can find where there is duplication and redundancies that can be fixed. You also mentioned just cost reductions in general just with attending school, a close friend of mine, his daughter is a sophomore here, last year took sociology, bought her text, went to class, the first the professor said is, "I'm sorry, if you bought the text, you won't be needing at this term." And he was going to teach with technology. I think when you look at it, a sixth of the price of tuition, the cost of books to attend the university per semester. If you have a tablet and we get out in front when it comes to licensing text material on your tablet, we could save millions.
>> Thank you. Dr. Steele.
>> Yeah. Clearly the recent attempt to have decentralization process didn't work well. And I think it's part of the culture problem we have here and the lack of openness and transparency and accountability that it needs to be improved dramatically between all the various stakeholders in this process. And clearly that's, you know, one of my main goals and issues here regarding public office hours and all those sorts of things. But we know that something like that has to happen, but it's truly a cultural problem. Places like the university which are under the purview of the Regents and not under any other organization according to the state constitution and higher education academics in general, they've been obvious to operating in a certain way. Kind of think like medicine with the rapid appeal that's going on, I can tell you as a practicing physician, there's lots of things happening that I don't think are helpful or good but they're happening. And--But there are some things that are happening that are good. And I think here in higher education, we have to realize that there will be some changes coming here and it will be a huge culture shift and it will be a big change in the environment in which we all operate. And t here's no question that as a physician, I see a lot of patients who work here at the university. And I'll tell you, I hear the stories from all the sub contractors and how much they overcharge the university relative to any other job. I can tell you that our students shouldn't going into debt to have sushi chefs and wood burning pizza ovens. That's not necessary when you have 50,000 applications for 6 or 7,000 acceptances. So, open check book online, budget online, zero based balance budgeting.
>> Thank you. And Ms. White, you'll be the first to answer our next question which will be our last question. Following the candidate's responses to this last question, they will each be given an opportunity to make a closing statement. They have two minutes to make that statement. All right, so Ms. White, you will be the first on this question. What is your opinion in what the recent controversy involving Brady Hoke and Dave Brandon reveals about accountability and our athletic programs? How would you approach such a controversy as a Reagent?
>> Well, as you can imagine, I actually can't answer that question as easily as the other candidates because I'm actually currently the chair of the board and I can't speak without sounding like I'm speaking for the board. What I can say is it is very important that our student athletes are safe and that we have policies in place to ensure their safety. Also, it's very important that, you know, that all of the entire board, we are all very concerned about this issue and are listening to everything we're hearing from many constituents. And the president of the university actually is the one who makes the personal decisions. And we are--as part of our role, individually we consult with the president but I feel it would be difficult for me to answer this in a way that doesn't trigger New York Times headlines.
[ Inaudible Remark ]
It would be more fun.
>> Mr. Behm.
>> I meant be funny the other day when I said to someone who asked me this question. I think you could raise tuition 25 percent and received less out by [inaudible] regarding the concussion issue with regard to Shane Morris. He looked at me, he didn't laugh and he sort of had a look like, "So what's your point?" So he was very involved in this issue. This is something that a parent, any of us when you send your child to school, if your child is in a football team to field, hockey team or just your average student, your number one concern is your child's safety. And that for many parents, this is the first time their child has left the home is to go to school. And so, this is something that is of the utmost importance not being a Regent and not being at the meetings. Sometimes people ask financial questions and you have to preface your answer by saying, "I don't have access to the books." But here, I can tell you as a fan and as an alum, I was incredibly disappointed with how it was handled. And I would look for thorough investigation, so something like this does not happen again.
>> Thank you. Dr. Steele.
>> Yeah. I agree with some of the comments that Mr. Behm made. You know, in medicine, you don't, you know, you don't come to a diagnosis and a treatment until you have all the data. And I certainly don't have all the data regarding the specifics inside that perhaps, you know, Regent White has available. Certainly, the medical side is of a grave concern and I think we've heard from the athletic department they've institute many new policies to help overcome the challenge they had which was pretty disappointing. You know, as regards, you know, football, I mean we got to understand here at the University of Michigan, we are first and foremost a fantastic highly honored research institution with a fantastic history. And athletics clearly is not the primary focus of this university. And I have a little different view on that than many. My grandfather started three years [inaudible] start on a national championship team, and after his long career and public education actually is a member of the national collegiate athletic director's hall of fame. So when we look at some of these issues, the kind of things that I have great passion for. But let's also look at the athletic department if we want to look and evaluate, let's keep in mind that there are 30, 31 sports. They're doing extremely well and all the others. The facilities have had tremendous upgrade. And so far, the athletic department has challenges with fees and with its medical decision. But let's not forget we're a research university here to help the future of the state and not an athletic program.
>> Thank you. Mr. Weiser.
>> Well, first of all, what Regent White said is important it's the president of the university's responsibility together with the executive officers to determine whether--what the problem is if there is one. And what the proper action is to take. University regions have a responsibility to give their input. And after they've given their input, they also have the responsibility to support the actions of the president. And quite frankly after time, if they don't support the actions of presidents, that's why presidents or executive officers get replaced. So, this is not just about one incident, this is about policies, it's about traditions, it's about the direction of the athletic department.
^M01:00:05 But, more importantly, about the interaction between the athletic department in the university community. And looking at all those things together, if I was a Regent, I certainly would give my input. I would certainly give my opinions, but they would be given to the president of the university. And from there, the support of that president's decisions I think it's important for the Regents to do.
>> All right. That concludes our questions. We're now going to have the closing statements from each of the candidates. Again, the order in which they're given was determined prior to the forum. So, we will be starting with Mr. Weiser your closing statement, please sir.
>> Why am I running for Regent? Because I think I can make a difference. I've had that opportunity throughout my life. My background is first as a businessman starting a small company when I was in school with $300 and growing it into a larger company. Having the opportunity then to go into public service 25 years ago and going to full time public service 15 years ago. And having the opportunity during that time to make a difference. This university is a leader in research. It is a leader in educational excellence. It has to and has a duty to continue to impact on the quality of life for the human existence. And it can do those things and it can do them better. And it could do those through its faculty, through its research, most importantly through its students. So there's many, many things that interact. And I believe I have a set of characteristics and background that can help with that whether it's being a diplomat and working within a bureaucracy and understanding how that process works to get people to work together to solve problems. I was in Eastern Europe right after 9/11. Whether it is my background in nonprofits, I'd shared with multiple non profits over the years from the Michigan theatre to The United Negro College Fund, to New Center and on and on and on. And I've learned that individual institutions can have an impact. Here at the university, I was one of the founders of the Ginsberg Center for Service and Learning as the person from the outside working with the vice president of student affairs and the vice--and the provost to help that start. That was an impact that has had a big impact in many students and others who received those services, Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia and the Weiser Center for--I can't even remember my own centers, Emerging Democracies.
>> I'm sorry, we're going to have to ask you--we're going to have to ask you to stop Mr. Weiser.
>> Working with the international institute. So those are the things that I have experienced in doing and I hope I have the opportunity to do that with the university as well.
>> Thank you. Mr. Behm.
>> Thank you Sue. Thanks for putting this forum together today. It's been a good discussion. We've all talked about things that we would want to improve. And I think we do need to keep in mind, you know, the recent publications where U of M is ranked the top public university in the world. So there is a great deal to be proud of. That being the case, we can always improve. And I think there are some areas that the university can improve, not only improve but continue to lead and lead into the future. I believe my background in being a trial attorney and also working on the boards that I have like Ambassador Weiser said, gives me some great experience in a situation like this when it comes to dealing with people with different opinions. I'm a firm believer of the more voices, the better. So when it comes to making decisions, I would regularly meet like I mentioned before with people from all different branches here in the university, students, faculty, and that tails right into what we're talking about with the Open Meetings Act. And that's something that I'm incredibly important and worthy to pursue from both in academic and athletic standpoint that we need to bring in more voices and hear more voices frankly. Sometimes decisions seem to be toned up. And I get the feeling that those are decisions that are made by few people instead of the receiving the opinions of many people. In addition, I'm really the only candidate from out state. And I would work tirelessly to, you know, promote and protect the interest of both branch campuses in addition to the main campus here in Ann Arbor. Thank you.
>> Ms. White.
>> Well, as a current chair of the Board of Regents, I have experienced an expertise on the board. I have Bachelor of Science in engineering, electrical engineering, computer science from Princeton University. I have a law degree from University of Washington, I have a master of law in--from George Washington University Law School, and I just graduated from US Army War College with the master in strategic studies. I'm currently a professor of law at Wayne State University, I specialize in patent law. I'm a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States army reserve in the JAG corps which is the lawyer's core for the military. I teach constitutional and military law to the cadets at West Point in the summers. And I'm a registered patent attorney, Fulbright senior scholar. And I was a Whitehouse fellow during 9/11. I have a background that's very different from anyone currently on the board. I'm the only that's served in the military, I'm the only engineer. And I'm the only academic. And I think it's important to have academics on the board. The state of Michigan is transforming, right? We're still dealing with this transformation from manufacturing economy to knowledge economy. We have a lot of challenges as a nation and higher education is a big piece of those challenges. My background gives me a solid foundation to lead the University of Michigan through these changing times.
>> Thank you. Dr. Steele.
>> Thank you everyone for coming. Great questions. You see you've got a lot of qualified candidates up here. It's great to be here in the Ford School. Strangely, I grew up in Grand Rapids, another out state guy. And when Gerald Ford announced this first raise for the house, it was in my grandparent's living room and that furniture is in the Ford museum. And my mom modeled with Betty Bloomer. So the Ford family has been a long time with us. And it's just wonderful that the university has recognized his accomplishments and contributions to the university. I mentioned my medical background 55 percent of the budget at the university is the health center medical education and clinical NIH research. And with all due respect to my flanking members here, there are seven attorneys on the board and no research physicians. So we have some work to do there. I think I have a lot to contribute there as well as to the institutional memory. I mentioned my grandfather with a long history here, my grandmother was chair of the Committee For Continuing Of Education for women. Was the first woman to have an alumni grouped named after her and was a national cochair for the first endowment campaign in 1964. And in the mid 1950s, she was sharing the stage with Harlan Hatcher during an event when some of the question came from the audience is, "What about our qualified students who aren't getting into the University of Michigan?" In 1955, Harlan Hatcher's answer was, "We will never turn down a qualified student from the state of Michigan. We will always increase enrollment to make sure they're taken care of." We need to make sure that the University of Michigan does more to contribute to the future of the State of Michigan by making sure our highly qualified students are accepted. We need to make sure that the qualified students from out of state are encouraged to stay here by giving them tuition refunds to some degrees if they stay in the state for five years and pay tuition. We want to recruit the very best students to stay here at the university after they graduate. And I'll be happy to make my contributions on the board when it comes to the crazy changes that are happening in medicine, research and limited funds coming from both federal and state government. Thank you for being here.
>> I want to thank the candidates for coming this afternoon and participating in this lively discussion. I want to thank all of you in the audience who provided questions, important issues facing the university. And I want to thank The Ford School, Dean Collins for cosponsoring the event so that we could have it here in this lovely facility. There will be a reception following the forum. And I invite all of you to stand--to stay and to talk individually with the candidates as they are able to stay. Thank you very much. Don't forget to vote.
[ Applause ]
[ Inaudible Remark ]