Guidelines for political activities on campus
As citizens, employees and students of Iowa State University have the full right to actively engage in the political process. However, as a state institution and non-profit organization, Iowa State University must abide by federal and state restrictions regarding the use of its property and facilities for political purposes. While recognizing the University’s mission of education is fundamental to a democratic society, public trust requires that the University and its resources not be used to promote partisan political causes and candidates.
The guiding principle is: As a public agency, the University has an obligation to be neutral in election processes, and may not use its facilities on a preferential basis to support political campaigns or candidates.
The following general guidelines will help students, employees and administrators understand the boundaries of involvement of the University in the political process. If you have more specific questions, please contact the Assistant Director of Federal Relations, or the State Relations Officer or the University Counsel.
- Employees may speak and act as individual citizens but must not say or imply that their views are the views of the University If there is a chance of confusion whether the employee is speaking for the university or as an individual, the employee—especially administrators—should clarify that he or she is speaking individually.
- Employee participation in political activities in support of candidates or ballot measures must be only on their own time and with their own equipment.
- University computing systems and e-mail accounts are provided to employees for business purposes. While University policy allows for incidental personal use, broadcasting campaign e-mail from a University account or otherwise using e-mail systems in a concerted effort to support a candidate or ballot measure is not permissible.
- Advocacy on behalf of the institution must be approved through the Regents’ Governmental Relations Office.
As a federal facility, The Ames Laboratory is subject to provisions governing use of federal property. In addition to the standards indicated above, federal property and equipment may not be used for campaign solicitations.
Specific restrictions under Iowa law include:
- State employees are prohibited from participating or supporting a particular campaign during working hours. Iowa Code § 721.5.
- Public money may not be used to advocate for or against a candidate or ballot issue. Iowa Code § 68A.505; Iowa Administrative Code § 351-5.4.
- Campaign signs shall not be placed on state-owned property. Iowa Code § 68A.406(2). This provision has been construed to allow students to place such materials in or on their own residence rooms. Areas designated as public forums will be available for expression of political views consistent with University regulations.
Federal law requires equal and fair access to the University for all candidates. For example, if a candidate or speaker on a particular ballot issue is invited to speak at class or on campus, opposing candidates and speakers must be provided the same opportunity on the same terms. Not all candidates or speakers may take advantage of the opportunity, but the opportunity must be there nonetheless.
Permissible activities include:
- Participation in voter registration or voter education is permissible so long as the employee is not advocating for or against a particular candidate or ballot issue.
- Putting on a candidate forum or conducting a series of events, balanced in nature, intended to educate the campus community on candidates and issues relevant to an upcoming election.
- Conducting and presenting research on the political process so long as it is not a pretext for support of a particular candidate or ballot measure.
- Commenting on the impacts of ballot measures or candidate actions and positions upon the university in a manner that reflects concern about the institution and its mission rather than in an attempt to influence the success or failure of a particular candidate or measure.
If you have questions, please call:
Carolann Jensen, State Relations Officer (515) 294-7239
Sophia Magill, Director of Federal Relations (515) 294-2320
Michael Norton, University Counsel (515) 294-5352
Resources and Additional Information:
Board of Regents Policy:
- Faculty Handbook, §7.1.1—Academic Freedom, and §7.1.2—Professional Responsibilities
- University Policy Library--Statement on Ethics, Relationship to Community-P&S Employees
- Merit Rules, IAC 681-3.3 (3)—Political Activity
- University Policy Library—Running for Elective Office
- Extension Policy P.4—Political Activities