Political Activity on Campus

Political Activity on Campus

MCCCD both respects and encourages participation in the time-honored tradition of political activity and non-partisan voter registration on American college and university campuses.

Since MCCCD is a public community college district, all employees are subject to certain legal restrictions on their political activities, specifically as it relates to the use of public resources to influence the outcome of an election. Some guidance as to these restrictions follows.

What You Can and Cannot Do

Under ARS §15-1408, a person acting on behalf of a community college district, or a person who aids another person acting on behalf of a community college district, is PROHIBITED FROM:

  1. Using or spending community college district resources
  2. influencing the outcome of an election.

The definition of “community college resources” includes the following:

  • Monies (even small or nominal amounts)
  • Accounts
  • Financial Credit
  • Facilities
  • Vehicles
  • Postage
  • Telecommunications
  • Computer hardware and software
  • Webpages
  • Personnel
  • Equipment and materials
  • Buildings
  • Or any other thing of value of the community college district

Influencing the outcome of an election means "supporting or opposing a candidate for nomination or election to public office or the recall of a public officer or supporting or opposing a ballot measure, question or proposition, including any bond, budget or override election and supporting or opposing the circulation of a petition for the recall of a public officer or a petition for a ballot measure, question or proposition in any manner that is not impartial or neutral.”

If you have questions about what may fall under this statutory restriction, please feel free to contact the Office of the General Counsel at general.counsel@domail.maricopa.edu.

Permissible Activities

Despite statutory restrictions, the law does permit certain political activity to occur on our campuses. The District or colleges may do the following:

  • Allow political organizations to use college facilities in the same manner as it would other non-political organizations. Typically, this must be in accordance with applicable regulations regarding the use of college facilities and solicitors’ use of common areas on the campus.
  • Rent or lease buildings to “partisan and ballot measure groups on the same basis and conditions as other groups who are permitted” to use those facilities.
  • Host nonpartisan forums and public candidate debates “for the purpose of educating voters about issues or candidates;” for contested candidate debates, however, “there must be at least two candidates invited,” the debate may not promote one candidate over the other, and “viewpoint neutral objective criteria” must be used to determine which candidates may participate.
  • Serving as a student club advisor to a student organization that may engage in political activity including, but not limited to, hosting political candidate forums and other partisan activities.

District employees are encouraged to be active, engaged citizens in their personal time including political activities, such as the following:

  • Joining the political party of your choice.
  • Voting in any municipal, special district, school, county, state, or federal election.
  • Making contributions (in your own name) to candidates, political parties, or campaign committees.
  • Soliciting (in their own name) contributions on behalf of candidates.
  • Expressing an opinion on a political candidate or issue.
  • Attending meetings for the purpose of becoming informed about candidates for public office or about political issues.

Prohibited Activities

A person cannot:

  • Expressly use the college or district's name or implied endorsement by the college or district of a particular candidate; for example, one cannot:
    • State (orally or in writing) that one is speaking for or on behalf of a college or the district.
    • Use college or district property, equipment, or supplies, such as:
      • College or district telephones (including college or district owned cell phones), mail services, photocopiers, fax machines, computers, laptops, or e-mail accounts stationery, paper, or envelopes purchased by the college or district
      • College or district-generated electronic data (any request must comply with Arizona’s Public Records Act, ARS § 39-121 et seq.)
    • Political signs, bumper stickers, or similar displays about current elections should not be placed on college or district premises, college or district automobiles, or other college or district equipment (political bumper stickers or displays can be on personal vehicles in parking lots).
    • Employees should not wear any employment uniform, badge, or other employment identification, or distribute business cards while engaging in political activities outside the course of performing their employment responsibilities.
    • Hang campaign signs or “any item that advocates for or against a candidate, recall, initiative, referendum, bond election, budget override or any ballot measure shall be placed in or on community college buildings.” (ARS §15-1408).

Employees should remember that they are “on-duty” when working for the community college district, engaged in community college district business, or acting on behalf of the community college district. On-duty time includes time spent supervising or organizing, or assisting in the supervision or organization, of a community college district-sponsored extracurricular event, such as an athletic event.

Academic freedom protects much expression of opinion in the learning environment; however, faculty must take care not to express their opinions or preferences on elections during board meetings or within the classroom or other instructional setting if those expressions can be reasonably construed as an effort to influence the outcome of an election by attempting to affect someone’s vote. Such an act would be outside the purview of academic freedom.

The Arizona Attorney General has issued guidelines on the use of community college district resources for political activity.

To read the Attorney General’s guidelines on the use of community college district resources to influence the outcome of elections, click on Guidelines: Use of Community College District Resources to Influence the Outcome of Elections Arizona Attorney General’s Office 2006.

Page updated 4/5/2024