University of Michigan board of regents special meeting (April 2, 2012): At a special meeting held on Monday afternoon that lasted less than 30 minutes, the board passed a resolution directing UM administrators to file an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by Michigan House Democrats against the GOP majority. The lawsuit indirectly related to recent legislation regarding graduate student research assistants (GSRAs), which had been given “immediate effect” by a voice vote of the legislature.
Dissenting in the 5-3 vote were the board’s two Republican regents – Andy Richner and Andrea Fischer Newman – as well as Democrat Libby Maynard. Richner and Newman objected vigorously to the action. Richner said it was inappropriate to intervene in a “political spat,” and worried that the vote could have long-term implications that the regents may regret. Newman said the issue involved House procedural rules that Democrats and Republicans have both used in the past.
Denise Ilitch, who voted with the Democratic majority, said the view of Richner and Newman was hypocritical. She said that they had testified at legislative hearings in support of legislation that had the effect of preventing GSRAs from unionizing. Maynard said her opposition was for very different reasons than those given by Richner and Newman, and indicated that she wasn’t comfortable in general with the university filing amicus briefs.
Except for Julia Darlow, all other regents participated in the meeting via conference call.
A hearing on the lawsuit took place earlier in the day at Ingham County Circuit Court, where judge Clinton Canady III ruled in favor of the Democrats and issued a stay on legislation that had been given immediate effect, including the GSRA legislation. That law – which regents had voted to oppose at a Feb. 21 special meeting – made explicit that GSRAs are not entitled to collective bargaining rights under Michigan’s Act 336 of 1947. There are more than 2,000 GSRAs at the university.
Republicans are expected to appeal Canady’s ruling. The motion that was passed by a majority of regents on Monday directed UM administrators to file an amicus “friend of the court” brief in any appeal as well. Jeff Irwin, a Democrat from Ann Arbor’s District 53, is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.