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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Feb. 23, 2007

Dos and don'ts of political activity on campus

by Diana Pounds

It's possible that sometime soon, right here on campus, you'll run into the next president of the United States. Presidential hopefuls and national media are expected to swarm the state and this university in ever greater numbers as the countdown to caucus continues.

All the political hoopla can be fun, but it sometimes requires deft handling by faculty and staff to ensure that the university does not promote partisan causes or candidates. In this Q&A, university counsel Paul Tanaka, federal governmental relations director Jon Murphy and state relations officer Andy Baumert answer questions on campus political activity.

What's the key point to be made about political activities on campus?

Iowa State University and its resources should not be used to promote partisan political causes and candidates. This is more than a matter of maintaining the public trust. As a state institution and non-profit organization, Iowa State must abide by federal and state restrictions on the use of its property and facilities for political purposes.

As ISU faculty and staff, can we speak up about our personal political views?

Faculty and staff can speak and act as individual citizens, but they shouldn't say or imply that their views are those of the university.

Does that mean I may talk politics in the office?

Yes, if you're not disrupting the work.

If I express a political view in a letter to the editor, is it okay to use my university title?

For purposes of identification, you can use your university title, as long as you don't imply that the university endorses your views. If there's a chance of confusion, clarify that you're speaking only for yourself.

May I engage in activities supporting candidates or ballot measures?

If it's on your own time and with your own equipment, yes. However, state law prohibits working on a political campaign during work hours.

May I invite a candidate or political advocate to speak to my class?

Federal law requires that all candidates have equal and fair access to the university. If you invite a candidate or advocate to your class, you must give opposing candidates and speakers the same opportunity. They need not take advantage of that opportunity.

Are candidate forums allowed?

Yes, if the forums or series of events are balanced and intended to educate the community on issues relevant to an upcoming election.

What about presenting research on the political process or a ballot measure?

Yes, assuming it's not a pretext for supporting a candidate or measure.

May university officials comment on how candidate actions or ballot measures might affect Iowa State?

Yes, as long as the comments reflect concern about the university and its mission. The comments cannot be simply an attempt to influence the success or failure of candidates or measures.


With presidential candidates touring the state, here are some things to keep in mind about political activities you can and can't do in the workplace.

Guidelines for political activity on campus