Political Activity Guide

The University encourages all students, staff and faculty to be active and engaged citizens, and to participate fully in the political life of the community.  However, in so doing, it is also important to keep in mind the legal guidelines that govern political activity on campus.
As a non-profit, tax-exempt entity, the University must abide by federal laws prohibiting the use of its facilities, services or personnel to promote or support individuals or organizations campaigning for public office.  These laws prohibit the University from contributing to or supporting political candidates or parties.  Simply put, no University resources – including personnel, e-mail accounts, copiers, office space, mailing lists, vehicles or publications – may be used for political purposes.
The restrictions on political activity do not apply to any employee acting as an individual, on their own time and using personal resources. Understanding the basic rules helps promote vibrant discussions on campus about candidates and political issues without violating the law.
University officials are encouraged to avoid making public statements–whether oral or written –where there is a risk that such statements would be perceived as support or endorsement by the University itself.

Student political organizations (College Republicans, College Democrats, etc.) are not prohibited from pursuing their normal activities consistent with the academic nature of their endeavors.  However, these student organizations must pay the normal fee associated with using institutional facilities, and must identify at any such event that the purpose of the event is educational, and does not imply any endorsement of (or opposition to) any candidate by the University.
Candidates for public office or their designees are welcome to appear on campus for non-campaign related activities, such as an educational or informational talk to the University community.  Such appearances must be sponsored by a University department or officially recognized campus organization and satisfy the following criteria:

  • The individual(s) is/are chosen to speak for reasons other than candidacy for public office.
  • The individual speaks in a non-candidate capacity.
  • The event or organization maintains a nonpartisan atmosphere.
  • No specific organized campaigning activity occurs in connection with the event.
  • The campus event involving a candidate should not be dictated by, or put under the control of, a candidate, his or her representatives, or any outside organization.
  • Any such event must be open first to the entire University community (without preference based on political affiliation) and then, if space permits, to the general public (again, without preference based on political affiliation).
  • Any additional criteria appropriate for the particular event as determined by the University.

Helpful Links:

  • Political Activity on Campus – American Council on Education
  • Revenue Ruling 2007-41 – Discusses 21 examples illustrating factors used to determine whether an exempt organization has improperly engaged in political activity in support of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.