Political Activity on Campus

Political Activity on Campus

 

Every election year prompts political activity in all sorts of venues, and MCCCD both respects and encourages participation in the time-honored tradition of political activity 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. The following is some guidance as to these restrictions.

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

FOR THE PURPOSE OF

  1. influencing the outcome of an election. 

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

  • Monies (even small or nominal amounts)
  • Accounts
  • Credit (this means educational credit, such as through an internship or externship)
  • 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 480-731-8848.

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 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.

District employees may engage in 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, as long as it is outside of work hours
  • Expressing an opinion, so long as employees do not attempt to influence any subordinate employee’s vote or activities as to a political issue, regardless of whether such an attempt takes place on work premises or during work hours.
  • 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 use:
    • College or district letterhead
    • College or district e-mail accounts
    • College or district telephone lines (phone and fax) and voice mail systems.
  • 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 or subsidized cell phones)
    • College or district mail services
    • College or district photocopiers
    • College or district fax machines
    • College or district computers, laptops, or e-mail accounts stationery, paper, 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.)
  • Academic freedom protects much expression of opinion in the learning environment; however, faculty may not express their opinions or preferences on elections within the classroom or other instructional setting or during board meetings. The key is that the expression of opinions cannot be construed as an effort to influence the outcome of an election in attempting to affect a student’s vote. Such an effort would be outside the purview of academic freedom.
  • Political signs, bumper stickers, or similar displays should not be placed on college or district premises, college or district automobiles, or other college or district equipment.
  • 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 [1]”  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 may not express their opinions or preferences on elections within the classroom or other instructional setting or during board meetings. The key is that the expression of opinions cannot be construed as an effort to influence the outcome of an election in attempting to affect a student’s vote. Such an effort 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 09/30/2019


[1] An employee is “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.