EXTERNAL MATTERS SUBCOMMITTEE OF SENATE COUNCIL
Examples of Permissible and Prohibited Political Campaign Activity
Assistant General Counsel, Zahraa Zalzala, will give a presentation on examples of permissible and prohibited political campaign activity.
Permissible Activity: Offering a political science course that involves an examination of political campaign strategy and requires students to participate in a political campaign of a candidate of their choosing. Permissible activity so long as the student selects their own candidate and the University and faculty are not involved and do not influence the choice of candidate or the student’s work during the campaign. University resources (including facilities and services) are not used in connection with the student’s campaign work.
Permissible Activity: Where relevant to the subject matter of a course and its learning objectives, and as part of a neutral discussion of academic issues, Professor tells students how he intends to vote in an upcoming election.
Prohibited Activity: In response to recent news about the change in position of a particular political party, political science professor uses considerable amount of classroom time encouraging students not to vote for any member of that party that is currently running for public office.
Permissible Activity: faculty members maintain an academic blog on politics and elections in the
United States. The blog contains educational articles written by faculty members in their areas of expertise, including topics such as the history of political party system in the U.S., economic impact of proposed ballot items, and the psychological effects of an election cycle. The blog does not evaluate, rate, or summarize the position of any candidate running for office. This blog is purely educational in nature and research is conducted as part of the University’s mission.
Prohibited Activity: One week prior to election, a faculty member posts an article on his academic unit’s Facebook page rating the fitness of all candidates running for local judicial office. The article states that the candidates are rated based on factors such as education, experience, and prior leadership roles, and information was disseminated with the goal of ensuring that those candidates with the proper character and fitness are elected. The timing of the publication, the rating system, and the goal of the publication, suggest that this is an attempt to indirectly intervene in a political campaign. Furthermore, disseminating the article through an official University social media page could be viewed as reflecting the views of the University and using University resources in support of or against a candidate.
University Resources – Facilities
Permissible Activity: law school invites prominent civil rights lawyer to sit on an educational panel on diversity in the legal field. Even though the lawyer is also running for Governor, the capacity in which she is being asked to speak at the law school is not related to her candidacy but rather to her current position as a lawyer. This is permissible so long as the law school maintains a non-partisan atmosphere throughout the event and the lawyer makes no reference to the election.
Prohibited Activity: University employee with access to a conference room permits members of the community to meet weekly in the evenings to strategize a marketing plan in opposition to a candidate running for county clerk. Use of University resources without reimbursement, particularly those that are not typically available to third parties for a fee, to intervene in a political campaign in opposition to a candidate for public office is prohibited.
University Resources – Other
Permissible Activity: University President sends an email one week prior to the close of voter registration, encouraging all students, faculty, and staff to register to vote for the upcoming election. The email stresses the importance of community engagement in the election process and the potential impact that the election can have to the University, without referencing a particularly dividing issue or advocating or opposing any candidate. Voter registration education is permissible activity so long as it is carried out in a non-partisan manner and does not favor or oppose any candidate.
Prohibited Activity: University staff employee mails a letter to 150 of her neighbors encouraging them to familiarize themselves with the candidates for city council and provides a summary of the candidate that she believes will best represent the community. The letter appears on
University letterhead and is delivered through university’s mailing system. The use of university resources, including University letterhead and mailing system, to participate in the political campaign on behalf of this candidate violates University Policy AD 92.
For information on permissible student organization political campaign activities, please see the
For additional illustrations of “dos” and “don’ts”, please see the American Council on
Education’s memorandum on “Political campaign-related activities of and at colleges and
EXTERNAL MATTERS SUBCOMMITTEE OF SENATE COUNCIL
- Mohamed Ansari
- Janet Hughes
- Lisa Posey
- John Nousek
- Beth Seymour
- Matthew Woessner, Chair