At the front of the room, Hellboy, Mr. Incredible, Superman and Wonder
Woman sat around a table while Batman performed opening roll call. A
bull and a deer in the corner tried in vain to force candy through
their polyester mouths.

It was Justice League-meets-Animal Kingdom-meets-Town Hall last night
in the Michigan Student Assembly’s chambers, as the Halloween-costumed
body debated and passed a resolution supporting human embryonic stem
cell research in Michigan.

The resolution, authored by representatives Gibran Baydoun and Paula
Klein, claims that Michigan is “one of five states with the most
severe restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.” It cites
research outlining the practice’s potential benefits and argues that
having fewer restrictions would be beneficial to the University and
the state.

Proposal 2, a state ballot initiative that stands to loosen
restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, is set to go before
voters next Tuesday. The authors originally intended to pen a
resolution explicitly stating the assembly’s support for the
initiative, but the Michigan Campaign Finance Act of 1976 forbids the
use of public resources to advocate for or against a ballot measure.
MSA’s funds, which come from student fees, are considered to be public
resources.

The contentious moral and political nature of the issue did little to
deflate the festive atmosphere, because the debate focused
overwhelmingly on the question of the resolution’s legitimacy.

Representative Andrew Chinsky, who said his brother benefitted from
such research, opposed the resolution even though he personally
supports the cause.

Chinsky argued it was “not an appropriate issue” for MSA to discuss.

“I don’t think that we have the responsibility to express the opinion
of the student body on this matter,” he said, adding that he doubted
it would have an impact if it passed.

Tim Hull, chair of the re-organization select committee, had similar feelings.

“I don’t feel like it’s MSA’s place to go take a stance, particularly
when people have moral objections to this research,” said Hull, who served as a representative last semester.

Baydoun disagreed, citing MSA’s status as a representative student
body and arguing that “if there’s anywhere” where students’ opinions
should be spoken for, “it’s here.” He referenced University President
Mary Sue Coleman’s presentation at last week’s Board of Regents
meeting in which she voiced her personal support for Proposal 2.

“With greater research into embryonic stem cells, we can expand our
development of therapies and cures and extend our commitment to the
well-being of the people in Michigan,” she said.

The resolution passed with 21 votes for and 5 against.

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