The Catholic University of America

Political Activities Policy

 

Approved by: President
History: Issued    -- September 15, 2000  
  Revised  -- April 22, 2016  
Related Policies: Co-Curricular Scheduling Policy; Presentations Policy; Posting Policy
Additional References: ACE Memo on Political Campaign Related Activities of and at Colleges and Universities; Frequently Asked Questions; Student Organization Resource Center
Responsible Official: President of the University tel. (202) 319-5100
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I.          Policy Statement 

The University is committed to the free and open discussion of ideas and opinions, and promotes participation in Political Activities (defined below) by members of the University community as a means of furthering the University’s educational goals.  At the same time, as a non-profit, private institution of higher education whose activities are regulated in part by Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, the University itself is prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in any political campaign on behalf of or against any candidate for elective public office. Accordingly, no University school, department or unit, and no member of the University community speaking for the University may advocate for or against a Candidate for elective office (defined below) or use University resources to do so.  Violation of this prohibition can jeopardize the University’s tax-exempt status. 

This policy provides general guidance for faculty, staff and students so that they may engage fully in the political process in a manner that does not jeopardize the University’s tax-exempt status.  This policy also provides guidelines for permissible appearances of Candidates on campus.   

No policy can anticipate every situation that may arise.  Accordingly, if any proposed activity is not covered in this policy, or if there is any uncertainty regarding that activity, it is important to review the Frequently Asked Questions.  If questions still remain, contact the Office of General Counsel (tel. 202-319-5142) in advance so appropriate guidance can be provided. 

II.         Definitions 

A.         Campaign means an organized effort to influence individuals and/or groups to elect a particular Candidate or Candidates to public office.  

B.         Candidate means an individual who has announced themselves as campaigning for an elective public office, whether at the federal, state or local level.  

C.         Political Activities mean actions that endorse or oppose a Candidate, a political party, or a political action committee (PAC); taking a position on an issue for the purpose of assisting or opposing a Candidate or political party in a Campaign; or otherwise supporting a Candidate, political party or PAC in a Campaign. 

D.         University Resources for the purposes of this policy means:  University funds and purchasing mechanisms, including the Procurement Card; University offices, conference rooms and other spaces and facilities; University copiers, facsimile machines, computers and other electronic equipment; University computer networks, websites, social media accounts, e-mail accounts, listservs and mailing lists; University telephones, and voicemail and mail systems; and University letterhead, stationery and other supplies.

III.         Political Activity Guidelines 

Faculty and staff (including student employees) may not engage in Political Activities during work hours. 

If a proposed activity is not discussed in these guidelines, or if there is uncertainty about the permissibility of a proposed activity, contact the Office of General Counsel in advance of engaging that activity in order to obtain appropriate guidance.   

A.         Candidate Appearances 

Appearance of a Candidate on campus must be for an educational or informational discussion, forum or talk to the University community, or for a political debate.  Such appearances must be approved by the President, the Provost, or a Vice President, or in the case of a student group or organization, by the Office of Campus Activities.   

The event may not be conducted as a Campaign rally or intended to assist a particular Candidate, and the moderator must make it clear that the University does not support or oppose any Candidate.   

            B.         Candidate Campaigning, Endorsement and Fundraising 

Except where otherwise noted, the following prohibitions apply to all University entities supported in whole or part by University funds, including registered student organizations. 

Candidate campaigning (solicitation) on University property is prohibited.  This includes, but is not limited to posting or distribution of posters, fliers, or leaflets, or transmission of materials over the Internet. No school, department or unit of the University may post hyperlinks to a Candidate’s website or Campaign websites on a University website (note that this prohibition does not apply to the College Republicans or College Democrats.) 

No Candidate may be endorsed by the University, or by a school, department or unit of the University. 

Funds or other contributions to support a Candidate, Campaign, political party or PAC may not be solicited or made in the University’s name, on University property, or using University Resources. All such contributions by faculty, staff or students may be made only in an individual capacity.   

Campaign paraphernalia may not be sold, distributed, or made available by schools, departments or units of the University.  Note that this particular prohibition does not apply to the College Republicans or College Democrats. 

C.         Event Communications and Postings   

Student organizations, officially-constituted campus groups, or other units of the University that are sponsoring an approved discussion, forum, talk or political debate, or an approved voter education or registration activity, may use campus communication mechanisms to announce that event.  All such communications and postings must comply with the University’s Acceptable Use Policy and Posting Policy.   

D.         Presentations and Political Speech 

Faculty, staff and students are free to express their individual and collective political views, provided they understand and make clear that they are not speaking for or in the name of The Catholic University of America. 

E.         Student Organizations 

It is desirable to have student organizations remain engaged and active in the political process, and it is understandable that organizations such as the College Democrats and College Republicans are interested in supporting Candidates represented by the respective political parties.  However, no student organization represents the views of The Catholic University of America.  Neither the College Democrats nor the College Republicans exist simply to support one Candidate over another, and the Office of Campus Activities will not register a student organization that has as a goal the support of a particular Candidate.   

Whenever a student organization hosts, sponsors, or publicizes an event on behalf of a political campaign or a political party, the sponsoring student organization must deliver a disclaimer explaining that the use of University facilities or resources for this event does not constitute an endorsement by the University, the views of those invited to speak on campus are the views of the speaker and not of the University, and that the University does not endorse or oppose any candidate or organization in connection with this or any other political campaign or election. 

As noted above, the University Presentations Policy must be followed in addition to this policy. 

F.         Use of University Funds and Resources 

University Resources may not be used for Political Activities, either by University units or by outside organizations.  Use of University buildings and facilities is permissible for the limited purposes set forth in section A. above, and subject to the University's Co-Curricular Scheduling Policy. 

G.        Use of University Name, Seal and Insignia 

The University’s name, seal and insignia, or those of a University school, department or unit may not be used on any documents to endorse or oppose any candidate for elective public office. This prohibition applies to any University entities supported in whole or part by University funds, such as registered student organizations. 

H.         Voter Education and Registration Activities 

Voter education and registration activities are permissible so long as such activities are focused on increasing public understanding of the electoral process or encouraging participation in that process.  Such activities must be conducted in a non-partisan manner, and may not focus on a particular Candidate or party.