Guidance on campus political activities
By Andy Harrington
UA statewide associate general counsel
The political campaign season is upon us again, and questions may come up regarding candidate appearances and political communications.
By law (Alaska Statute 39.52.120(b)(6)), UA employees may not use, or permit the use of, UA email or other UA property or resources for partisan political purposes. Partisan political purpose includes anything done with the purpose of differentially benefiting or harming a candidate or potential candidate, political party or group.
The following are some general guidelines. However, because the Ethics Act and other applicable law can be complex and some issues may involve constitutionally protected speech or matters of academic freedom under UA Board of Regents’ policy, please seek advice through your supervisor and the Human Resources or General Counsel’s offices if you have questions regarding a specific instance.
Generally impermissible activities:
- Students or employees using university networks to send bulk email supporting a candidate or party.
- Employees hosting partisan gatherings using university facilities or resources without payment for the use.
- Students or employees using university resources to reproduce or distribute partisan campaign materials.
- Displaying or distributing partisan political material while engaged on official business. (AS 39.25.178(3)).
Generally permissible activities (not considered partisan use of UA resources):
- Hosting an all-candidate forum or debate as a public service.
- Faculty inviting a candidate to a class to address matters related to the class.
- Authorized student clubs using their funds to host a partisan gathering on campus or participate in a partisan event.
- University spokespersons, students or UA advocates informing legislators, candidates and the public about university priorities, requested budgets, positions, programs, and/or research activities.
- Employees standing at a corner on campus during their lunch hours waving a partisan sign.
The University encourages and respects personal participation in political activity, including partisan activity. Please, however, respect the rule that resources entrusted to us by the public are not to be used for partisan purposes. At the same time, bear in mind that it is not feasible or in the university’s interests to attempt to regulate minor personal use of phone or email. Potential violations should be addressed after careful consideration of the circumstances and consultation with your supervisor and the offices of Human Resources and the General Counsel.