FLINT — University President Mary Sue Coleman continued her outspoken support of stem cell research yesterday, when she delivered an impassioned speech to the University’s Board of Regents and other top school officials, calling misinformation about the state ballot initiative Proposal 2 “an insult to medical researchers everywhere.”

Proposal 2, which is slated to go before Michigan voters on Nov. 4, would loosen the state’s restrictions on stem cell research using cells harvested from human embryos.

In an interview earlier this month, Coleman made clear her personal support for the initiative, saying its passage would be a boost to Michigan’s economy and help the state recruit the best scientists to its universities.

University faculty and officials must walk a fine line in discussing their positions on political issues because the University maintains a nonpartisan tax-exempt status, but Coleman’s comments fell on kind ears yesterday.

After saying that all citizens should inform themselves about all candidates and issues on the ballot next month, Coleman’s comments quickly turned to the need for voters to learn about Proposal 2.

“There is currently a tremendous amount of misinformation being presented about stem cell research,” she said. “In fact, some of the claims are outrageous and blatantly false.”

Coleman, who spent 19 years in the biochemistry department at the University of Kentucky, said the medical benefits of stem cell research are still being discovered.

“The potential of stem cells to help us better understand human biology and how disease affects our bodies is, at this point, limitless,” she said.

She said that lifting the ban on stem cell research would allow the University to expand its research in the field.

“University of Michigan is a recognized leader of adult stem cell research,” she said. “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.”

Coleman concluded by repeating that voters should learn more about the initiative.

“Again, I urge people to educate themselves about the science and about the ballot issue in order to make an informed, thoughtful choice.”

As Coleman tried to move onto the next order of business at the meeting, Regent Laurence Deitch (D-Bingham Farms) interrupted her.

“President Coleman, I would like to take a second to compliment you and thank you for your advocacy on behalf of Proposal 2,” Deitch said.

He said that “putting aside the potentiality for helping the human race,” the bill is “extraordinarily important for the future of the University and the future of the state.”

Deitch said that when leadership is needed on important issues, those in power often worry too much about the political implications of choosing a side.

“Too often, people in positions of leadership remain silent, or are wishy-washy on things that they actually believe in, lest they offend anyone,” he said. “Your leadership has been exemplary and extraordinary on this matter.”

Regent S. Martin Taylor followed Deitch in praising Coleman. He said he agreed with Deitch “whole-heartedly,” but that the Regents expect Coleman to “do more.”

Coleman jokingly responded, “I’ll take that as an order.”

In an interview after the meeting, Deitch said he sees the initiative as a bipartisan issue, and has no problem with the president of a public university taking a public position on it.

“We’re in a democracy. And that’s why I’m delighted to see her leading on it,” he said.

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