By Evan Kreager
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer
A Republican and a Democrat. A cat and a dog. A Spartan and a Wolverine. “They don’t always agree,” reads the cover of a pamphlet distributed by the Michigan Nonprofit Association, “but something is bringing them together.”
The pamphlet is absolutely right, there is something that Michigan State University and the University of Michigan agree on. But it is not to vote against proposal five on this fall’s ballot. Rather, the two schools agree not to take a stance in a political campaign.
“Obviously we didn’t have any involvement with it,” said an administrative assistant at the Michigan State University Licensing Program.
Nancy Asin, the assistant secretary of the University of Michigan, initially had similar concerns.
“This group did not request rights to any University of Michigan trademarks,” said Asin. “If they had asked to use the trademarks, we would not have granted permission, based on our policy about the use of our trademarks in political campaigns.”
Many universities, because they receive tax exemptions from the federal and state governments, have policies about not supporting or opposing a political campaign or message.
“The trademarks and service marks—including but not limited to the Block M and the seal of the University of Michigan (the “Marks”)—are prohibited from use in political campaigns, whether in opposition to or in support of a candidate for public office or a ballot question,” says the University of Michigan’s policy for the use of university of Michigan name, marks, seal and images in political campaigns.
After taking some time to look over the pamphlet, Asin and others at the University of Michigan decided that although it was a close call, the group was not breaching any policies.
“They make it clear that the people wearing the UM clothing are speaking for themselves as fans, and are not claiming that the University of Michigan endorses this ballot initiative. This is a different situation from an individual candidate or political party trying to make it seem like the University itself is endorsing a particular candidate,” said Asin.
The pamphlet, which was paid for by a group called Defend Michigan Democracy, has a very clear message – vote no on proposal five. The cover pictures a man with a Spartan hat and sweatshirt on, and a woman with “Block M” garb on, and argues that two rival schools both agree to “vote NO on five.”
Roger Martin, a media contact for Defend Michigan Democracy, failed to return calls to comment on the pamphlet.