Partisan Political Activities - Aug 8, 2019

TO: University of Alaska Students and Employees
FROM: Andy Harrington, Associate General Counsel & Designated Ethics Supervisor

RE: Partisan Political Activities

DATE: August 8, 2019

While fall elections in odd-numbered years are generally pretty quiet, this year’s political landscape includes the recent launch of a gubernatorial recall campaign, presenting an opportunity to remind ourselves of our responsibilities under the Executive Branch Ethics Act (EBEA).

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 recall effort falls squarely within that definition.

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 Board of Regents’ policy, please seek advice through your supervisor, HR and the General Counsel’s office if you have questions regarding a specific instance.

Generally Impermissible activities:

  • Students or employees using University networks to send bulk email supporting or opposing the recall effort, or any candidate or group; 
  • Employees hosting partisan gatherings using University facilities or resources without payment for the use;
  • Students or employees using University resources to reproduce or deliver 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 a pro-and-con or 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 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.

Download the memo here.