GOP regent candidates take issue with university event 'The Republican War on Women?'
A GOP candidate for University of Michigan regent has been outspoken in his criticism of a school-sponsored event that he says has a clear liberal bias.
"The name was chosen because the phrase 'Republican war on women' is widespread among popular culture," she continued. "Panelists are going to explore the climate in which such an assertion as 'war on women' could be made in the media."
Cunningham said the event is nonpartisan.
Rob Steele, an Ypsilanti Republican candidate for U-M's governing board, thinks otherwise.
"A cursory look at the original poster clearly shows the political intent of the conference sponsors. Public funds should not be used to sponsor partisan political events," he asserted, saying that if elected he would work to eliminate such events.
Michigan Capitol Confidential, a news website operated by The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, criticized the event, saying the conference panel and moderator each has Democratic leanings. Cunningham said the political affiliations of the participants weren't considered when they were selected.
The event was originally titled "The Republican War on Women" in an email sent to U-M students and faculty in early October. But when the university received complaints about the title, event organizers generated a new poster that included a question mark. They stopped distributing the old poster.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
"The issue isn't with the content per-se, the issue was how it was titled and sent to the public, as a declaration," Steele said. "There's a second issue having to do with academic integrity and the exchange of ideas. Clearly in that panel there was not going to be any exchange of ideas, there was just going to be one set of ideas."
Steele, a cardiologist, said he doesn't think top U-M administrators knew about the event title, but said if he were on the board he would advocate for "better oversight on these press releases."
Steele's remarks come shortly before the Nov. 6 general election and raise the question: How involved should a regent be in university programming?
Cunningham said regents don't usually "get into that level of detail" when it comes to university programming.
In an earlier interview with AnnArbor.com, Steele said he would be hands-on if elected to the Board of Regents.
"The regents set the policy, they hire the executive to execute the policy. The policies are the regents’ policies, not the executives’," he told Ann Arbor.com last week.
Fellow Republican candidate Dan Horning said that while regents shouldn't micromanage university operations, "when the violations clearly step over the line it's important that the regents step in."
Horning, who made headlines during his first term as a regent 2001 when he criticized a U-M class titled "How to be Gay," called the event title "troublesome" and said there should be a more politically diverse group of panelists. He said the event was "clearly" partisan and violated U-M guidelines and called Cunningham's statements otherwise "ludicrous."
Democratic candidates for regent Shauna Ryder Diggs and Mark Bernsein could not be immediately reached via phone for comment.
The event is hosted by the Institute for Research on Women and Gender and takes place at 4 p.m. Monday in the Hatcher Graduate Library.