Board of Regents of the University of Michigan
The Board of Regents of the University of Michigan is the legal corporation that controls the University of Michigan, comprising the campuses at Ann Arbor, Flint, and Dearborn. The Board of Regents was created by the Organic Act of March 18, 1837 that established the modern University of Michigan. The terms of the Regents and their method of selection have undergone several changes since 1837, but the Board has served as a continuous body since then.
Although the Board of Regents was formed as a new legal entity in 1837, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in 1856 that it was legally continuous with the Board of Trustees of the University of Michigan that was formed in 1821, and with the Catholepistemiad, or University, of Michigania that was formed in 1817. In 1817, Michigan Chief Justice Augustus B. Woodward drafted a territorial act establishing a "Catholepistemiad, or University, of Michigania. The territorial act was signed into law August 26, 1817, by Michigan Chief Justice Augustus B. Woodward, Judge John Griffin, and acting governor William Woodbridge (Governor Lewis Cass was absent on a trip with President Monroe). In consequence of the foregoing territorial act and the 1856 ruling, the present-day University of Michigan recognizes 1817 as the year of its founding. That act makes the University of Michigan the oldest university in the Big Ten.
Michigan is one of four states with public university governing boards elected directly by the people (along with Colorado, Nebraska, and Nevada). The Board of Regents is one of three elected university governing boards in the state (the others being the Michigan State University Board of Trustees and the Wayne State University Board of Governors).
- 1 Current Board
- 2 Legal independence and the Homeopathic School
- 3 List of Members of the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan (and its predecessors)
- 4 Notes
- 5 References
- 6 Further reading
- 7 External links
The current Board of Regents consists of eight Regents, two of whom are elected on a partisan statewide ballot every two years to an eight-year term, plus the President of the University of Michigan as an ex officio member. The Regents (excepting the President) serve without compensation, and meet once a month in public session. As of November, 2016, the Board consists of five Democrats and three Republicans:
- Mark Schlissel, ex officio, 14th President of the University of Michigan
- Michael J. Behm, Democrat from Grand Blanc, first elected 2014
- Mark Bernstein, Democrat from Ann Arbor, first elected 2012
- Shauna Ryder Diggs, Democrat from Grosse Pointe, first elected 2012
- Denise Ilitch, Democrat from Bingham Farms, first elected in 2008
- Andrea Fischer Newman, Republican from Ann Arbor, first elected in 1994
- Andrew C. Richner, Republican from Grosse Pointe Park, first elected in 2002
- Ronald Weiser, Republican from Ann Arbor, first elected in 2016
- Katherine White, Democrat from Ann Arbor, first elected in 1998
Legal independence and the Homeopathic School
Prior to 1850, the University of Michigan in its various incarnations was a product of the Michigan Legislature (or its territorial equivalents), and the Board of Regents and its predecessors were subject to oversight and control by the Legislature. The state constitution of 1850 elevated the Board of Regents to the level of a constitutional corporation, making the University of Michigan the first public institution of higher education in the country so organized. The Legislature did not give up its control easily, and the Board of Regents engaged in a number of battles with legislators before the matter was settled, several of them involving the establishment of a school of homeopathy.
In 1851, a group of citizens who supported the homeopathy movement petitioned the Legislature to force the Board of Regents to add professors of homeopathy to the medical school staff. The board took no action, but Dr. Zina Pitcher wrote a detailed account of their thinking to leave for their incoming replacements (the first class of elected regents in 1852):
...shall the accumulated results of three thousand years of experience be laid aside, because there has arisen in the world a sect which, by engrafting a medical dogma upon a spurious theology, have built up a system (so-called) and baptized it Homœopathy? Shall the High Priests of this spiritual school be specially commissioned by the Regents of the University of Michigan, to teach the grown up men of this age that the decillionth of a grain of sulphur will, if administered homœopathically, cure seven-tenths of their diseases, whilst in every mouthful of albuminous food they swallow, every hair upon their heads, and every drop of urine distilled from the kidneys, carries into or out of their system as much of that article as would make a body, if incorporated with the required amount of sugar, as large as the planet Saturn?
Nothing further happened until 1855, when the Legislature revisited the subject and modified the Organic Act to include the provision that "there shall always be one Professor of Homœopathy in the Department of Medicine." The Board of Regents again took no action to comply. In 1867, the Legislature used the power of the purse and passed a statewide property tax to benefit the university "provided the board of regents would comply with the law of 1855, and appoint at least one professor in the medical department of the university." Although the money was desperately needed, the regents again refused to comply, and two years later the money was released by the Legislature without restriction. By 1871, the expressed public desire for a Homeopathic School led the Board of Regents to consider establishing one at Detroit, separate from the Medical School. In 1875, the school was actually established, but in Ann Arbor, not Detroit.
In 1895, the positions were reversed, and the Legislature tried to force the regents to move the Homeopathic School from Ann Arbor to Detroit. The regents refused, and the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution explicitly defined the powers of the Board of Regents independently of the Legislature, while every other corporation the constitution created had its powers specified by the Legislature. Justice Claudius Grant wrote: "No other conclusion was...possible than that the intention was to place the institution in the direct and exclusive control of the people themselves, through a constitutional body elected by them."
This ruling established the precedent that the Board of Regents is an independent branch of the state government, answerable to the people of the state, not to the Governor or Legislature. The Homeopathic School at the center of the battle was eventually merged into the Medical School in 1922.
List of Members of the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan (and its predecessors)
Catholepistemiad, or University, of Michigania (1817-1821)
The Catholepistemiad, or University, of Michigania, was established by the Governor and Judges of Michigan Territory in 1817, following a plan devised by Chief Justice Augustus Woodward. The Catholepistemiad was self-governed by the professors (or Didactors) that held its thirteen professorships (didaxiim). In fact, the thirteen didaxiim were divided up between just two men, who thus controlled the entire institution:
- Rev. John Monteith, President (and holder of seven professorships)
- Father Gabriel Richard, Vice-President (and holder of six professorships)
Board of Trustees of the University of Michigan (1821-1837)
In 1821, the Governor and Judges of Michigan Territory renamed the Catholepistemiad to the University of Michigan, and placed control of the University in the hands of a Board of Trustees consisting of 20 citizens plus the Governor. Their previous positions abolished, Father Richard and Rev. Monteith were both appointed to the Board of Trustees; Monteith left that summer for a professorship at Hamilton College, while Richard remained on the board until his death in 1832.
As it was common during this era for the Governor to be absent, the various men who served as Acting Governor are included in this list in italics, but no specific dates should be inferred as to when exactly they were Acting Governor. Also, no predecessor/successor relationship among specific Trustees should be inferred from their relative position in the table. Using the terms in office cited in the historical sources, at some points there are up to 22 simultaneous Trustees, even though only 20 were called for.
|Year||Governor (ex officio)||Appointed Trustees|
|1821||Lewis Cass||William Woodbridge||John Biddle,
John R. Williams,
|William H. Puthoff||Rev. John Monteith||Henry Jackson Hunt||John Hunt||Charles Larned||Philip Lecuyer||Father Gabriel Richard||Benjamin Stead||Christian Clemens|
|Abraham Edwards||Thomas Rowland|
|Jonathan Kearsley||Noah M. Wells||James Kingsley||L. Humphrey||Richard Berry|
|John T. Mason|
|George B. Porter||Stevens T. Mason|
|Stevens T. Mason|
|John S. Horner||John McDonnell|
|Ross Wilkins||John Norvell|
Source: (Shaw 1942)
Appointed Board of Regents of the University of Michigan (1837-1852)
The Organic Act of March 18, 1837, created the modern Board of Regents. In its original form, it consisted of 12 members appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Senate, along with the Governor himself, the Lieutenant Governor, the Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court, and the Chancellor of the state. The act also created the office of Chancellor of the University, who was to be appointed by the Regents and serve as ex officio President of the Board. In fact, however, the Regents never appointed a Chancellor, instead leaving administrative duties up to a rotating roster of professors, and the Governor chaired the board himself.
Although the name of the institution they governed was the same, the Board of Regents was a distinct legal entity from the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees transferred all of their property to the new Board of Regents, but forgot to include the lot in Detroit where the Catholepistemiad had first been located. The court case involving the eventual recovery of this property led to the Michigan Supreme Court deciding in 1856 that the Board of Regents, the Board of Trustees, and the Didactors of the Catholepistemiad were a legally continuous entity. The Regents continued to treat 1837 as the founding year of the University of Michigan until 1929, when they reversed policy and adopted 1817 as the official founding date. That act makes the University of Michigan officially, if not actually, the oldest university in the Big Ten; in actuality, Indiana University, founded in 1820 and granting degrees before the University of Michigan was in existence, is the oldest Big Ten school.
Note: While dates and successions are well-defined for the ex officio Regents, readers are cautioned not to infer specific predecessor/successor relationships for the appointed Regents, except where specifically noted below by an asterisk (*) which denotes Regents explicitly named as a successor to the previous one.
Source: (Bentley Historical Library 2006)
Elected Board of Regents of the University of Michigan (1852-present)
This article needs to be updated.(September 2010)
The state constitution of 1850 made the Board of Regents a statewide elected body, and created the office of President of the University of Michigan, who was to be an ex officio member and preside over the Board without a vote. The first regents elected under the new system were elected in 1852.
Originally, one regent was elected from each of the eight judicial circuits in Michigan, for a six-year term, with all regents up for election simultaneously. By the time of the next election, the number of circuits had grown to ten, so ten regents were elected for the term beginning in 1858. This fluctuation in the size of the board, combined with the controversy over the regents' firing of President Henry Philip Tappan just before the end of their term in 1863, led to a new law that fixed the size of the board at eight members, elected on a statewide basis to an eight-year term, with terms staggered such that two are up for election every two years. The constitutional convention of 1908 added the Superintendent of Public Instruction as an ex officio member of the Board, a move which was reversed by the constitutional convention of 1963.
- Hebel 2004
- Guevara 2005, p. 17
- Hinsdale 1906, p. 106
- Michigan Dept. of Public Instruction 1852, pp. 325–326
- Hinsdale 1906, p. 107
- Wing & Gay 1890, p. 350
- Hinsdale 1906, p. 57
- Hinsdale 1906, pp. 107–108
- Shaw 1920, pp. 168–169
- Michigan State Medical Society 1922, p. 145
- Hinsdale 1906, pp. 11
- Charles P. Bush, acting Lieutenant Governor from 1847-1848, is listed as an ex officio Regent in (Bentley Historical Library 2006), but Thomas J. Drake, acting Lieutenant Governor from 1841-1842, is not. It is not clear whether this is an omission or a change in treatment of the acting Lieutenant Governor between 1842 and 1847.
- Bentley Historical Library 2007
- Elisha Ely died November 2, 1854, and his position was unfilled for the remainder of his term. (Hinsdale 1906, p. 183)
- Bentley Historical Library (2006), Regents of the University of Michigan, archived from the original on 2008-02-10
- Bentley Historical Library (2007), Regents of the University of Michigan: Historical Background, archived from the original on 2008-09-08
- Guevara, David L. (2005), Institutional Autonomy and Public Institutions of Higher Education (PDF), Education Law Consortium, University of Georgia
- Hebel, Sara (October 15, 2004), "State Regents: Should They Be Elected or Appointed?", The Chronicle of Higher Education, 51 (8): A1
- Hinsdale, Burke A. (1906), Demmon, Isaac, ed., History of the University of Michigan, University of Michigan, retrieved 2007-08-16
- Kestenbaum, Lawrence, "University of Michigan Board of Regents", The Political Graveyard
- Michigan Dept. of Public Instruction (1852), System of public instruction and primary school law of Michigan. Prepared by Francis W. Shearman, superintendent of public instruction, Lansing: Ingals, Hedges, OCLC 48522069
- Michigan State Medical Society (1922), The Journal of the Michigan State Medical Society, 21
- Shaw, Wilfred (1920), The University of Michigan, New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe
- Shaw, Wilfred, ed. (1942), The University of Michigan, An Encyclopedic Survey, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, OCLC 1349782
- Wing, Talcott E.; Gay, Helen W. (1890), History of Monroe County, Michigan, New York: Munsell, OCLC 957977
- Chase, Theodore R. (1880), The Michigan University Book. 1844-1880., Detroit: Richmond, Backus, OCLC 68793919