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Regent candidates discuss tuition, health care issues at forum

Nine of 10 candidates vying for two open seats on the Board of Regents in the Nov. 5 election participated in the forum sponsored by the Senate Assembly and the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA). The candidates answered two questions from the Senate: What is your vision for the future of the University? and, If the University loses the affirmative action cases at the U.S. Supreme Court level, what do you think should happen next and why? They also fielded questions from the audience at Hale Auditorium, ranging from the role of the regents to family issues, such as health care and childcare.

The candidates present at the forum were: incumbent Andrea Fischer Newman, R-Ann Arbor; Ismael Ahmed, D-Dearborn; Davis Arndt, Natural Law Party-Ann Arbor; Susan Fawcett, Green Party-Petoskey; Rick Gualdoni, U.S. Taxpayers Party-Flint; Matt Petering, Green Party-Ann Arbor; Andrew C. Richner, R-Grosse Pointe Park; Greg Stephens, D-Saline; and Nick Waun, Reform Party-Lapeer. Candidate William Hall, R-Lapeer, was unable to attend the forum.

The forum will be broadcast at 8 p.m. Oct. 23 on UMTV, Channel 22. In addition, the forum is available as a Webstream archive on the Internet at

Ismael Ahmed
Executive director of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) in Dearborn, Ahmed, a Democrat, is a 1975 U-M graduate with a bachelor of arts in secondary education. He co-founded ACCESS 30 years ago with the vision of providing services to new immigrants. Ahmed, of Dearborn, serves on the U-M-Dearborn Advisory Committee and counts among his appointments the Board of Trustees for the Henry Ford Health System.


"My reasons for running for regent include my interest in ensuring diversity on campus and finding ways to increase diversity. We need to try to make going to school more affordable and assure the people who work everyday at U-M get a fair shake.

"The University should be an inclusive place where we can nurture free thought. This can be done by supporting students, faculty and staff and the diversity of their needs. The University should not only be a beacon of learning, it should also build models and partnerships that can confront a community's problems, whether they be here in Michigan or across the world. We must do this in a way that preserves and builds on the reputation that this University and its faculty have already earned.

"The University is generally on the right course, and while there needs to be some changes, especially in the area of rising tuition and other costs, the course is generally correct. I would work to get the University more engaged in communities, because the result of that is tremendous. It shares knowledge, benefits communities and the University, and makes our knowledge more practical. Together, they can do something special.

"Generally speaking, I support efforts to improve the lot of working people, and that includes people wo work here on campus. The right to have day care, tuition reimbursement and prescription drugs are important rights I support. I also support the right of people to organize to ensure they achieve these things."

David Arndt
Arndt, a member of the Natural Law Party from Ann Arbor, is a plant engineer at the University. He did not respond to a request for biographical information, a photo and a platform statement.

"It is a pleasure and honor to work here, and I have never been surrounded by so many intelligent people. I would like to be able to use my experience working in the construction industry to bring common sense to the future of new buildings and the operation of buildings in the University.

"I support the $10 an hour minimum wage on campus. It would be an excellent idea. Education is key, but are we really preparing students how to live a life effectively, happily and productively? Or, are we just giving them a degree that says University of Michigan on it and sending them on their way?

"Hopefully in 50 years there will not be a need for affirmative action, but today we do need it. I invite the University and partners in the Big Ten to focus on how they can eliminate affirmative action. If we can build nuclear bombs, we can figure out how to educate all of our children in our country and the rest of the world so they can all go to U-M and afford it.

"I don't think we are here to represent just the people who elect us, but also the silent majority of the people that just do not vote or speak. There needs to be an environment that promotes open communication with people.

"U-M has already taken the role of environmental stewardship seriously, and I think is the forerunner in the Big Ten. I would like to increase the awareness of faculty and staff and students to their own computer use, water use and electrical use throughout the University. It could be reduced greatly."

Susan Fawcett
Fawcett, a Green Party candidate, is a student of figurative sculpture and political science at U-M. Active with the University chapter of Campus Greens, she currently serves as a state organizer for the environmental group. A native of Petoskey, Fawcett graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy with honors. She has served three years as a volunteer, coordinator and staff member of the Blissfest Music Organization, a nonprofit group devoted to education and the preservation and advancement of traditional music and folk arts.

“I believe the University exists for the benefit of the public and should reflect this in all of its policies. That includes its investment policies. Everything should be geared toward the benefit of society and run by the ideas of the people of Michigan and the University faculty and staff. I would make a special effort to try and include everyone.

“Everyone says they want tuition to come down. Cutting down on costs is the most obvious answer, but the University may need to hold off on new construction until it can prioritize making tuition more affordable for Michigan.
“It is extremely important we continue to make minority students already on campus feel comfortable and welcome. That includes recruitment of minority students and faculty, and getting financial aid to them. I support a University-based mentorship program where students can go to low-income schools and work with students there to pay off loans or tuition.

“I would really like to see an investment policy that only invests in organizations with no human rights or labor violations. I believe the University should provide childcare and should go out of its way to make sure all of its employees are given good healthcare benefits. I think the board does need student representation.”

Rick Gualdoni
A member of the U.S Taxpayers Party, which is affiliated with the Constitution Party, Gualdoni graduated from U-M in 1984 with a bachelor of science degree in computer science. Currently owner and manager of Colorall Technologies of Mid-Michigan, Gualdoni, of Flint, also has worked for 17 years as a computer consultant to automotive, health care and retail businesses in Michigan.


“My vision is for educating our youth and making them better prepared for the business and working world. The primary purpose of any University is to educate. Research and development is an integral part of that, but we should focus on education and eliminate courses that are not necessary to promote a life most Americans appreciate.

"(The regents) do represent the people of Michigan, so we must make sure the University does not go off and do its own thing. It is a supporting role, as well, but we shouldn't forget we are elected members of the people who vote.

"The 13th amendment of the Constitution does guarantee diversity and members of my party believe in the Constitution. I will bring those philosophies to the board. We are running for office to represent people, so we want to reach out to them. One thing about being elected board members is we are elected outside of the University. I won't just take the spoon-fed agenda from the administration. I will bring my own ideas and be accessible to the people however we can effectively communicate.

"I would think that the affirmative action issue could be addressed. The Constitution already grants equal protection under the law. So I think we should just get back to what has worked in the past. I would work to make sure Michigan employees have a great health care plan."

William W. Hall
Hall, a member of the Libertarian Party, is a partner in the Grand Rapids office of one of Michigan's largest law firms, Warner Norcross & Judd LLP, where he manages its Real Estate Services Group. Hall, from Rockford, serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Michigan Legal Foundation and as general counsel of the Libertarian National Committee. He earned an A.B. from Wabash College in 1978 and a J.D. from the Northwestern University School of Law in 1981.


"Over the past several years, spending at the University has spiraled out of control," Hall said in his platform statement. "The board is responsible and must act decisively to eliminate waste, downsize or cancel programs that are not meeting their goals, and refocus resources on those educational programs which do, or can, provide the most benefit. Soaking students, parents and taxpayers for more funds year after year hurts the people U-M was created to serve. The era of free and easy funding from the state has ended with the downturn of the economy, and U-M must act responsibly without yet another bailout.

"U-M's heavy reliance on state tax dollars has hurt its independence and handicapped its ability to pursue its educational mission. The Board of Regents must act to decrease reliance on tax dollars by focusing on increasing U-M's private endowment and other non-tuition sources of revenue.

"Most of the finest educational institutions in the United States are private because only private institutions have the discipline and experience derived from operating in the market without state assistance given regardless of whether the institution provides the educational services people want.

"The role of the Board of Regents is to set policy for U-M, hire excellent administrators to implement it and get out of the way so they can do their job. Unfortunately, the board has a history of expending its efforts, and U-M funds, fighting lawsuits and public relations battles it cannot win and that do little to advance the educational mission of the University."

Andrea Fischer Newman
A Republican incumbent from Ann Arbor, Newman is seeking a second term as a regent. A 1979 U-M graduate and alumna of the George Washington University National Law Center, Newman currently serves as senior vice president-government affairs for Northwest Airlines. A legal specialist in government contracts, she is a member of the Federal Service Impasses Panel, to which she was appointed in February by President George W. Bush. The panel resolves labor disputes between the federal government and its unions.

"I believe the University is an invaluable institution of higher learning and a jewel in the state. I will continue to use my experience from eight years as a regent to make sure a U-M education is both affordable and superior.

"My priorities include making sure that the Life Sciences Initiative (LSI) achieves its objectives and attracts the best and brightest here to work on the frontier of society. Affordability remains important. I was the only regent to vote against the 7.9 percent increase in in-state tuition. I recognize that costs go up, but we can do more to keep costs in check. I believe tuition increases should be a last resort, and if unavoidable, the rate of increase should be reasonable.

"My first priority to this institution is continuing academic excellence, maintaining U-M as a world-class institution. We need to focus on growing and improving the departments we have, while adding the programs that make sense. The LSI is a tremendous opportunity for all of us. And I see other projects like that in the future.

"The challenge to the University will continue to be creating a student body that reflects the community it serves while maintaining academic standards. I believe the University needs to maintain flexibility in admissions in order to have a student body that is representative of the entire community it serves.

"Family issues lend themselves to quality of life and the ability to recruit and maintain the best and brightest faculty, staff and administrators that we have here. Unfortunately, all of them cost money and that has to be factored into the overall budget. We have to look at these things on a case-by-case basis and make determinations where we can afford them and how we can best utilize benefits for our faculty, staff and administrators."

Matt Petering
Petering, a Green Party candidate from Ann Arbor, is a second-year Ph.D. student in industrial and operations engineering at U-M. A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Petering has served as a cryptologic mathematician at the National Security Agency and is working to become a professor of operations research.

"I will always keep the fundamental meaning and purpose of the University in mind. I love the University of Michigan and want it to be the best it can be. I am very concerned that the University is losing sight of its mission to provide low-cost education for the residents of Michigan. Michigan residents are no longer getting their money's worth from the University. We need someone on the board that recognizes this situation is intolerable. I want the University to be a place that provides high-quality, low-cost education to the residents of Michigan.

"If we lose the (affirmative action) lawsuits, I think we should change the policies. I do not support the current undergraduate admissions policy, because it unfairly gives students from certain groups a greater opportunity to earn admission points than students who are not from these groups. I believe applicants should be judged by the content of their character and their excellence as individuals, not by their membership status in certain groups.

"The Board has basically endorsed everything the administration has wanted, including the recent 7.9 percent tuition increase. This situation is not good for the University. Tuition increases and wasteful spending will continue unless we separate the University's legislative branch, the Board of Regents, from its executive branch, the University administration. We need checks and balances on power at the University.

"It is extremely important that we maintain adequate health care for employees of the University. This situation is getting out of hand with health care costs. If costs continue to rise, I feel it is the regents' job to go outside the University and lobby for national health insurance. It is a crisis situation, and that is causing tuition at the University to also be a crisis."

Andrew Richner
A Republican serving his third term and final term as a member of the Michigan House of Representatives for Detroit, the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods, Richner is chair of the Insurance and Financial Services Committee and an attorney with membership in the bars of Michigan, New York and the District of Columbia. Previously elected to two terms on the Wayne County Board of Commissioners and one term on the Grosse Pointe Park City Council, Richner, of Grosse Pointe Park, holds bachelor of business administration and J.D. degrees from the University, which he received in 1982 and 1986, respectively.

"I have always felt a special responsibility and obligation to do what I could to support the University. I believe I have something to offer the University in return for what has been given to me.

"I have fought for higher education and am proud of the fact that since I have been in the Legislature, we have increased funding every year for our colleges and universities in the state. Times are going to be a little tough and revenues are declining at the state level, but I think I am the best advocate for the University when it comes to state appropriations. I understand the process and have the relationships necessary to represent the University and the interests of higher education.

"I am very sensitive to the fact that tuition rates continue to increase. The No. 1 priority is to keep tuition rates down and to do what we can to bring in more state appropriations to make sure future generations have the same opportunities that I have had to attend this great institution. The University could implement various strategies to control costs and administrative overhead, and improve operational efficiencies to keep tuition affordable.

"The University is an institution that needs to change with the times. The great thing about the University is there are so many opportunities for students to explore what they want to explore. The policymakers should make sure that they are responsive to the needs and interests of the students here. I would like the Board of Regents to do what it can to rein in tuition increases. At some point, it becomes unaffordable to working families. There has to be more focus paid to tuition increases."

Greg Stephens
Stephens, a Democrat from Saline, is the business manager/financial secretary for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 252. Stephens also serves as secretary treasurer of the Washtenaw County Skilled Building Trades Council and on the Board of Directors of the Construction Unity Board, the country's longest continuously running labor-management organization. As business manager of the IBEW Local 252, he is
in charge of community involvement for the chapter.

"I believe the working families of Michigan need a stronger representation on the board. I can bring a unique insight to the board that is lacking. Traditionally, the board has been comprised of attorneys and CEOs, and therefore, the working-class perspective may sometimes be overlooked. I am a working-class person and have represented working-class families my entire career. I want to make sure our state's most prestigious university remains accessible to working families.

"The vision I have for the University is of continued greatness. The LSI has to be brought forward, and the regents must keep the Life Sciences Corridor between our universities open to collaboration so that precious funds will not be wasted on duplicate issues. This initiative means too much to the University community and the state of Michigan to be guided by petty jealousies between the universities.

Nick Waun
A senior in anthropology/classics at U-M-Flint, Waun is running for regent as a member of the Reform Party. Founder and general partner of Waun Investment Partnership Ltd., the Lapeer native has served as a student government representative and, in 1998, as a student member of the U-M-Flint Curriculum Committee. Waun also has been a People to People Student Ambassador to China, Ireland and the United Kingdom.


"If I could write up an application for this University, there is only one question I would want to know from the students who wanted to come here: Do you want to learn? I don't care what color or race you are, and I don't care where you are or what you have done. The only way to do that is to get rid of selective admissions. That is one of the reasons I support online classes. Another priority of mine is to build U-M charter schools.

"The University needs to find constitutional ways to promote charter schools and develop minority areas. We can encourage minority interest in the University, and by increasing enrollment, it will facilitate more minority students.

"I believe in the tradition of avoiding microman- aging the University. None of the regents have a first-hand perspective of how the policies they make affect the University community. If I am elected, every issue, from parking to housing, will have informed input. I am a strong believer in an open-door policy.

"If I could change one thing, I would change funding for under-funded programs that deserve more funding. I do support low-cost childcare and tuition reimbursement. I come from a family with a very strong labor background. The only things I oppose are administrative perks, things like $400,000 salaries and presidential gift clauses.

"It is time for the University to catch up with all other major universities and have students on the governing board."

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