Fort Hays State University > About FHSU > Academic Divisions > Office of the Provost > Faculty and Unclassified Handbook > Ch 1 Political Activity
Office of the Provost
The state Board of Regents adopted on February 15, 1985, the following policy regarding political activity on the part of faculty, administration, and others in unclassified service in the institutions within its jurisdiction:
Faculty, administrators, and other unclassified personnel are eligible to accept any public or political party position which does not involve any conflict of interest and does not require substantial time away from assigned duties or in other respects infringe upon them. Such eligibility covers membership on city commissions, school boards, planning groups, and county, state, and national party committees and like organizations, by either appointment or election.
The filing of a declaration of intent to become a candidate shall not affect the status or appointment of an unclassified member of a college or university staff; provided, however, such person at all times while a candidate shall properly and fully perform all of his or her assigned duties; provided further, however, that should such person while he or she is a candidate for office fail to perform all of his or her assigned duties, such person shall not receive any salary or benefits from the date of filing for office.
Leave without salary or other benefits will be granted to those elected or appointed to public office requiring full time or lengthy sustained periods away from assigned duties, such as Congress, the state legislature and state and county offices or appointments to offices falling within this category; effective, as to a person elected or appointed to Congress or the state legislature, from the date such person takes the oath of office or the first day of the legislative session and continuing until the adjournment of Congress or to a date no sooner than the last adjournment in April or sine die adjournment, whichever occurs first, of each regular and special session of the state legislature; effective, as to other state and county offices, during the entire time a person serves as such officer. Leave without salary or other benefits shall not be required for any person serving in the state legislature or for service on any committee during a period when the legislature is not in regular or special session, provided that such person shall decline to accept all legislative compensation for such service, but such person shall be entitled to mileage and other expense allowances as provided by statute and paid by the legislature.
In the interest of the fullest participation in public affairs, personnel are free to express opinions speaking or writing as an individual in signed advertisements, pamphlets, and related material in support of or opposition to parties and causes. There will be the commensurate responsibility of making plain that each person so doing is acting for himself and not in behalf of an institution supported by tax funds drawn from citizens of varying political and economic views.
Kansas Board of Regents: Policies and Procedures Manual (02/15/85).
Political Campaign-Related Activities of and at Colleges and Universities(American Council on Education Political Campaign Memo, September 2011)
We summarize here “do’s”
and “don'ts” of potential entanglements of colleges and universities, and their
personnel, in campaigns for public office. The summary is not exhaustive and
omits legal citations. It is based on judicial and IRS rulings under Section
501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; IRS guidance; and the Federal Election
Campaign Act of 1971, as amended, as well as Federal Election Commission
regulations that apply to colleges and universities.
This memorandum mainly
addresses 501(c)(3) institutions and draws on legal authority and guidance that
are not addressed to other institutions. In addition, state law requirements
that govern campaigns for state and local office vary and are not addressed
here. Also not specified here are the penalties for improper political activity
by and at a college or university. They can include loss of the institution's
tax-exempt status, imposition of taxes on the institution and its responsible
managers, and other risks, including federal or state government lawsuits,
audits, and investigations.
We recommend that the
institution’s counsel be consulted before proposed actions are taken in this
area. This memorandum states general propositions, is not legal advice, is
educational in nature and does not address the advisability as a matter of
institutional policy of engaging in the activities identified below.
I. ILLUSTRATIVE PERMITTED ACTIVITIES
A. Voter education
(including voter guides) and voter registration
Y1. Conducting training
programs designed to increase public understanding of the electoral process or
to encourage citizens to become involved in the process, provided that such
training is nonpartisan in the recruitment of instructors, the selection of
students, and the curriculum. The program should be widely publicized, although
groups underrepresented in the electoral process may be targeted.
Y2. Annually preparing and
distributing a compilation of voting records on major legislative issues that
involve a wide range of topics, without political skew and without editorial
opinion, provided that the information is not widely distributed and is not
geared to coincide with the election period. Guides such as these should avoid
rating candidates, even if the rating criteria are nonpartisan (e.g., based on
professional qualifications) and should not be accompanied by a statement or
actions that tie a position articulated in the guide to a particular candidate
or election. (See N2 below.)
Y3. Circulating unbiased
questionnaires to all candidates for an office, and tabulating and
disseminating the results; provided that the questionnaires cover a broad range
of subjects and neither reflect political skew nor contain editorial opinion. Candidates
should be given a reasonable amount of time to respond to the questionnaires.
To the extent the questionnaires include questions with “yes or no” answers,
candidates should be given an opportunity to explain their answers.
Y4. Conducting public opinion
polls with respect to issues (rather than candidates), provided that the
questions are framed to be fair and neutral, accepted polling techniques are
used, and the questions do not directly or indirectly concern records or
positions of particular candidates or parties. With respect to such activities
of faculty, the limitations should be addressed with due regard for academic
Y5. Participating in
non-partisan voter registration activities, even when aimed at groups (such as
urban voters, young people or minorities) likely to favor a certain political
candidate or party, provided that the activities are not intended to target
voters of a particular party or to help particular candidates, and provided
further that particular geographic areas are not selected to favor any party or
B. Candidate appearances
Y6. Providing access to air
time on a university-owned radio station on an equal basis to all legally
qualified candidates for a public office, in a manner consistent with the limits
imposed by Federal Communications Commission standards.
Y7. Providing opportunities
to speak at college or university events on an equal basis to all
legally-qualified candidates for a public office. If the institution chooses to
invite candidates to speak individually in their capacity as a candidate, it
must take steps to ensure that all such legally qualified candidates are
invited and that none are favored in relation to the activity. For example, if
a university invites one candidate to speak at a well-attended annual banquet,
but invites another candidate to speak at a sparsely attended general meeting,
the university will not have provided equal opportunity to participate. An
explicit statement should be made as part of the introduction of the speaker
and in communications concerning the speaker’s attendance that the institution
does not support or oppose the candidate. Campaign fundraising at the event
should be prohibited. The institution must make reasonable efforts to ensure
that the appearances constitute speeches, question-and-answer sessions or
similar communications in an academic setting and are not conducted as campaign
rallies or events.
institution-sponsored public forums to which all legally qualified candidates
for a public office (or for the nomination of a particular party) are invited
and given equal access and opportunity to speak, if the format and content of
the forum are presented in a neutral manner.
Y9. Inviting candidates to
appear in a non-candidate capacity, provided that the individual is chosen to
speak solely for reasons other than his or her candidacy, the individual speaks
only in his or her non-candidate capacity, no reference to the election is
made, and the organization maintains a nonpartisan atmosphere on the premises
or at the event. Campaigning at the event should be prohibited. The institution
should clearly indicate the capacity in which the candidate appearing and
should not mention the candidacy or the upcoming election in any communications
announcing the candidate’s attendance.
C. Issue advocacy
Y10. Engaging in usual and
permissible lobbying and public policy education activities, within the
constraints ordinarily applicable to such activities conducted by a college or
university. This is a complex topic that warrants fuller analysis and advice.
Special caution is indicated with respect to heightened, different or targeted
lobbying and public policy education activities conducted during a campaign
D. Use of institutional
Y11. Establishing genuine
curricular activities aimed at educating students with respect to the political
process. For example, the IRS approved a political science program in which, as
part of a for-credit course, university students participated in several weeks
of classroom work to learn about political campaign methods, and then were
excused from classes for two weeks to participate in campaigns of their choice,
without the university influencing which campaigns were chosen.
Y12. Rearranging the academic
calendar to permit students, faculty, and administrators to participate in the
election process, if the rearrangement is made without reference to particular
campaigns or political issues; provided that the recess is in substitution for
another period that would have been free of curricular activity.
Y13. Providing financial
and administrative support to a student newspaper even though the newspaper
publishes editorial opinions on political and legislative matters.
Y14. Allowing established
student groups to use institutional facilities for partisan political purposes,
provided that such groups pay the usual and normal charge, if any, for use of
institutional facilities by student groups. Fees usually are not required for
traditional, on-campus student political clubs. Generally, groups other than
student groups should be charged. Administrators and faculty should take
special care in relation to any such proposed student activities, to avoid the
appearance of institutional endorsement and to observe the other principles
this memorandum identifies. Subject to applicable law, institutions may as a
matter of their own general policy decline to permit their facilities to be
used for such purposes.
Y15. Adopting a voluntary
payroll deduction plan that would allow individual employees to direct a
portion of their wages to the political action committees (“PACs”) for their
respective unions, provided that the institution’s activities with respect to
the PAC are ministerial and simply involve transferring the funds earmarked by
the employees to the PAC chosen by the employee, the institution has absolutely
no role in the management or governance of the PAC or any influence over the
selection of candidates or political parties to be supported by the PAC, the institution’s
name is not used or otherwise acknowledged in connection with any contributions
made by the PAC to any candidates for public office, the institution is
reimbursed for costs associated with the plan, the institution takes steps to
ensure that no employee associates the PAC with the institution, and the
institution does not allow employees to participate in PAC activities during
work hours other than in the performance of the ministerial activities
Y16. Providing hyperlinks
to the webpages, or other space on the institution’s website, of all legally
qualified candidates for a public office, if a tax-exempt purpose (e.g., “voter
education”) is served by offering the link and the link is made in a manner
that, after taking into account the format and other content on the
institution’s website, does not favor one candidate over another. (See N13
E. Participation in the
election process by faculty, administrators, and other employees of the
Y17. Members of the college
or university community are entitled to participate or not, off-hours, as they
see fit, in the election process; provided that speaking or acting in the name
of the institution is prohibited except as described in this memorandum;
provided further that they are not acting at the direction of an institutional
official; and provided further that if the institution is identified, that the
opinions that are expressed are not the opinions of the college or university
should be communicated.
Y18. A faculty member,
administrator or other employee may, if permitted by institutional policies and
procedures, engage in federal campaign-related activity that is (a) outside
normal work hours; (b) within ordinary work hours, if the time is made up
within a reasonable period by devoting a comparable number of extra hours to
work for the institution; (c) charged to vacation time to which the person is
then entitled or occurs during a regular sabbatical leave; or (d) during a
leave of absence without pay taken with the institution's approval. The
institution should consult applicable state law concerning permitted volunteer
activities by employees in connection with campaigns for state or local office.
Senior institutional officials, such as the president and the vice-president
for governmental affairs, should ordinarily refrain from or otherwise limit
campaign activity, as there is risk that such activity would be perceived as
support or endorsement by the institution. (See N16 below.)
Y19. Public statements,
oral or written, by institutional officials (such as the president and deans)
in support of a candidate, political party, PAC or the like, where the
institutional official clearly indicates that his or her comments are personal
and not intended to represent the views of the institution. For example, the
IRS condoned a full-page advertisement in a local newspaper, paid for by a
candidate, where the advertisement referred by name and title to the president
of a 501(c)(3) organization as a campaign supporter, when the ad expressly
stated that the “titles and affiliations of each individual are provided for
identification purposes only.” (See N15 below.)
II. ILLUSTRATIVE PROHIBITED
(OR, IN SOME INSTANCES, QUESTIONABLE) ACTIVITIES IF UNDERTAKEN BY THE
INSTITUTION OR BY AN INDIVIDUAL WHOSE ACTIONS ARE ATTRIBUTABLE TO THE
A. Voter education
(including voter guides) and voter registration
N1. Conducting “voter
education” activities, such as those involving questionnaires, if confined to a
narrow range of issues or skewed in favor of certain candidates or a political
party. For example, the IRS has
disapproved such activities that involved selected voting records of certain
incumbents on a narrow range of issues, such as "land conservation."
N2. Publishing ratings of
the candidates, particularly in situations where the ratings could be viewed as
reflecting the views of the institution, or institutional resources are used in
connection with the preparation or publication of such ratings without
reimbursement at the usual and normal charge. (See Y2 above.)
N3. Endorsing, expressly or
impliedly, a candidate for public office. Examples of express endorsement
include the placement of signs on university property that show support for a
particular candidate, and contributing to political campaign funds. Examples of
implied endorsement are public statements at a college or university event by
an official of the institution, praising a particular candidate in relation to
the holding of public office, and a pattern of institutional activities in
relation to or support of a particular candidate.
N4. Commenting on specific actions, statements or positions
taken by candidates, including incumbents, in the course of their campaigns.
The institution is not forbidden to comment on specific issues pertinent to its
tax-exempt purposes, particularly if it has a track record of commenting on
such issues in non-election years.
N5. Promoting action
(voting) with respect to issues that have become highly identified as dividing
lines between the candidates. This principle does not bar the institution from
commenting on issues critical to its tax-exempt purposes, if it has a track
record of commenting on such issues in non-election years with respect to such
N6. Coordinating voter
education activities with campaign events.
B. Use of institutional
institutional fund-raising with fund-raising of a candidate for public office,
political party, PAC or the like.
N8. Reimbursing college or
university officials for campaign contributions.
N9. Providing mailing
lists, use of office space, telephones, photocopying or other institutional
facilities or support to a candidate, campaign, political party, political
action committee (PAC) or the like free of charge. If mailing lists or
facilities are sold or rented to a candidate or campaign, the items must be
made available to all other candidates on the same terms and at fair market
prices. Additionally, the institution should be prepared to show that it did
not take the initiative in making the items available and that the sales or
rentals are part of an ongoing pattern in which similar items are provided to
unrelated, nonpolitical entities. Counsel should be consulted on the potential
for taxation of revenues generated by such sales or rentals.
N10. Using institutional
letterhead in support of a candidate, political party, PAC or the like.
N11. Sponsoring events to
advance the candidacy of particular candidates.
N12. Using message boards
and forums affiliated with the institution's website to support particular
candidates, if the statements of the provider of the information can be
reasonably attributed to the institution. A disclaimer that states that the
opinions are neither those of the institution nor sanctioned by the institution
is recommended in those public discussion areas where the information could
reasonably be attributed to the institution.
N13. Providing hyperlinks
to the webpages, or other space on a university’s website, of one or more
candidates for public office in a manner that favors one candidate over
another. Generally, information posted on an institution’s website that favors
or opposes a candidate for public office is treated the same as if it was
distributed printed material, oral statements or broadcasts that favored or
opposed a candidate. Institutions should diligently monitor the content of the
linked website for any changes.
N14. Providing a candidate
a forum to promote his or her campaign if other candidates are not treated
equally, even if the forum is not intended to assist the candidate. For
example, the IRS concluded that a charitable organization violated the
prohibition on campaign intervention when the candidate solicited funds on the
organization’s behalf, because the content of the solicitation included
C. Participation in the
election process by faculty, administrators, and other employees of the
N15. Public statements,
oral or written, by institutional officials (such as the president and deans)
in support of a candidate, political party, PAC or the like, where there is
risk that the statements would be perceived as support or endorsement by the
institution. For example, the IRS has indicated that it would be inappropriate
for a column titled “My Views” to appear in a university’s monthly newsletter
in which the university president stated, “it is my personal opinion that
Candidate U should be reelected”, even though the president paid part of the
cost of the newsletter.
N16. Remarks at an institutional
meeting by an institutional official in support of a candidate, political
party, PAC or the like. For example, institutional officials should not make
statements that could be perceived as support for a particular candidate at a
regular meeting of the Board of trustees.
The foregoing is not
exhaustive. Considerable judgment in the application of these principles is
likely to be required. When activities that are separately identified in this
memorandum are combined, an institution should analyze the interaction between
the activities, as the interaction may affect whether the institution is
engaged in political campaign intervention.
Approved by Provost's Council (10-11-11)
Back to Chapter 1
Copyright © 2009-2012 Fort Hays State University • 600 Park Street, Hays, Kansas 67601–4099 • 785–628–FHSU (3478) Contact Webmaster with any questions or comments concerning this Web site.