Looking Back: Board of Trustees debates supporting the Tisch Amendment

Bridget Janis, Managing Editor

In the 1980s, the topic within Oakland University’s Senate was whether the Board of Trustees should take a stand against the Tisch Amendment, Proposal D on the ballot at the time.

Prop. D was a proposed decrease on property taxes and ban on new types of homestead taxes. Prop. D also said no new taxes could be collected without 60 percent approval of the electorate. Many saw this as a time lag.

“It takes away the power of the legislature to tax and puts it in the hands of the public,” said Frederic Shipley, a professor in the School of Economics and Management at the time.

While most of the Board of Trustees voted they should have taken a stand against Prop. D along with Wayne State University and the University of Michigan, they continued to remain undecided due to controversy within the Trustees. According to a political science professor at the time, Edward Heubel, the Tisch Amendment would ruin all public universities.

“I see a black cloud on the horizon as I see the possibility of the Tisch Amendment passing and what it would do to Oakland University,” Heubel told the Senate.

One Trustee then, Richard Headlee, was in full support of the Tisch Amendment. His point of view at the time was that it was the only tax proposal on the ballot that year. It would reduce government spending, even if that meant reductions of spending in public facilities.

“Government spending has stripped the ability of people to pay [their taxes],” Headlee said.

He said the government must stop spending beyond the level of which people can support. He believed the Tisch Amendment would force the government to use its money more responsibly.

If the Tisch Amendment passed, Michigan’s higher education budget would have been cut by 55 percent. The cuts the Tisch Amendment would have brought with it if it became effective were considered drastic, and not just for higher education. Mental health services would also be cut by 48 percent.

The estimate was that it would have caused 12 out of 15 colleges at the time to shut down and a 50 percent reduction in state aid for Wayne State University, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. While Headlee was not convinced this would happen, others were worried about this situation and the likelihood of it.

Headlee also believed if the university took an official position on the topic, it could influence anyone on campus and create a biased atmosphere that could unfairly influence any voters. Other trustees, such as Kenneth Morris, thought it was important for the board to take a position, claiming that placing a stance was a crucial part of the board.

The Board of Trustees did not end up taking a stance, and the Tisch Amendment did not pass.