Guidelines Regarding Political Activity by Employees of the University

University staff and faculty members are encouraged to fully and freely exercise their constitutional right to vote, as well as express their personal opinions regarding political candidates, issues, local, state and national programs, initiatives and referendums. However, as employees of a public institution there are restrictions on exercising these rights in a manner that suggests University endorsement of a cause or candidate.

Introduction

University staff and faculty members are encouraged to fully and freely exercise their constitutional right to vote, as well as express their personal opinions regarding political candidates, issues, local, state and national programs, initiatives and referendums. However, as employees of a public institution there are restrictions on exercising these rights in a manner that suggests university endorsement of a cause or candidate. General guidelines on these restrictions are provided below. For the purposes of these guidelines, political activity means activities related to elections, campaigns for or against candidates, issues, amendments and levies. It should be noted that these guidelines relate solely to individual employee conduct and do not address the scope of University actions.

Employee Political Conduct

As an employee of the university, it is inappropriate to either participate in political activities or solicit participation of others in political activities, either during normal business hours or at any time when using university assets. Employees of the government relations department are exempt from this sectional prohibition; rather, employees within this department must abide by appropriate principles in not permitting political considerations, unethical considerations, or personal beliefs, to influence or interfere with any advice, counsel, or services rendered.

Employees of the university, regardless of designation as classified or unclassified, are prohibited from serving in an appointed or elected position when it is physically or professionally impossible for the employee to discharge the duties of both positions, or there would be a conflict of interest with the university, or if some specific constitutional or statutory bar exists prohibiting the employee from serving both positions.

Use of University Resources

Employees, regardless of designation as classified or unclassified, are restricted from using their university position, university facilities and resources, or the university name in any form that suggests institutional endorsement. Examples include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. The university name, logo, insignia, or other identifying marks must not be used in any announcement, advertising matter, publication, correspondence, or report in connection with personal or unofficial activities of employees.

2. University assets, equipment, space, and staff services are intended to be used for conduct of university business by faculty and staff and by officially recognized campus organizations. Faculty and staff are responsible for assuring that university resources are used for university business. Resources include but are not limited to telephones, duplication services, cash, campus mail, computing equipment, any other equipment, supplies, space and vehicles. For additional information, employees should refer to Policy on Responsible Use of University Computing and Network Resources, the Use of University Property within the Conflict of Interest and Work Outside the University Policy, and the Personal Use of Public Property within the OAA Policies and Procedures Handbook.

3. When necessary, employees should make clear that their affiliation with the university does not imply university approval or disapproval of the expressed view. Such a disclaimer may be necessary in activities such as:

a. Taking part in a public political meeting or speaking on behalf of a candidate or issue; 
b. Writing a letter or signing a statement connected to political activity, or when the employee’s name appears on a letterhead supporting a candidate or cause. 
c. Supporting the employee’s own candidacy for an office.

Employees should also avoid the appearance of university affiliation through the cumulative impact of individual acts.

4. Employees should not take part in polls intended to disclose the opinion of the university staffs as such on partisan political matters. This does not imply any restriction on participation in polls conducted among the general public.

5. University facilities and services may not be used by employees or on behalf of an outside organization or individual whose purpose is to further the cause of a particular candidate or political party. For example, designating a space on campus as campaign headquarters for a political candidate or party is prohibited.

6. University organizations and faculty advisors of such organizations, may use campus communications to announce political forums and discussions sponsored by a registered student organization. University communications should not be used in support of a particular candidate.

Prohibited Political Activity by Classified Employees

Under Ohio law, additional restrictions on political activities are placed upon classified employees. The Ohio Administrative Code defines classified service for the purpose of political activities as “all persons in active pay status serving in the competitive classified civil service of the State.” Prohibited activities for classified employees include, but are not limited to, the following. Ohio Admin. Code Ann. §123:1-46-02.

1. Candidacy for public office in a partisan election;

2. Candidacy for public office in a nonpartisan general election if the nomination to candidacy was obtained in a partisan primary or through the circulation of nominating petitions identified with a political party;

3. Filing of petitions meeting statutory requirements for partisan candidacy to elective office;

4. Circulation of official nominating petitions for any candidate participating in a partisan election;

5. Service in an elected or appointed office in any partisan political organization;

6. Acceptance of a party-sponsored appointment to any office normally filled by partisan elections;

7. Campaigning by writing for publications, by distributing political material, or by writing or making speeches on behalf of a candidate for partisan elective office, when such activities are directed toward party success;

8. Solicitation, either directly or indirectly, of any assessment, contribution or subscription, either monetary or in-kind, for any political party or political candidate;

9. Solicitation of the sale, or actual sale, of political party tickets;

10. Partisan activities at the election polls, such as solicitation of votes for other than nonpartisan candidates and nonpartisan issues;

11. Service as, witness or challenger, for any party or partisan committee;

12. Participation in political caucuses of a partisan nature; and

13. Participation in a political action committee which supports partisan activity.

Classified employees are permitted to engage in the following types of political activities, provided the employee is off-duty.

1. Registration and voting;

2. Expression of opinions, either oral or written;

3. Voluntary financial contributions to political candidates or organizations;

4. Circulation of nonpartisan petitions or petitions stating views on legislation;

5. Attendance at political rallies;

6. Signing nominating petitions in support of individuals;

7. Display of political materials in the employee’s home or on the employee’s property;

8. Wearing political badges or buttons, or the display of political stickers on private vehicles; and

9. Serving as a precinct election official under section 3501.22 of the Revised Code.

A complete listing of the applicable rules regarding political activity is found in Ohio Admin. Code §123:1-46-02.

Political Activity by Unclassified Employees

Subject to the above stated general guidelines, and federal and state laws, unclassified employees are not prohibited from engaging in political activity. Thus, upon prior notice to the appropriate university official, unclassified employees may run for part-time elective office, such as school board, township trustee, or city council.

Employee Leave of Absence for Political Activity

In cases where the political activity infringes on the employee’s ability to work during normal business hours or to complete assigned duties, the employee must make arrangements with the proper university officials to request a temporary leave of absence.

Employees must provide sufficient prior notice to the appropriate university officials. For employees seeking a full-time elected office, the date of notification to the university officials shall be not later than the date of filing the certification of the petitions for the office that they are seeking. If the employee does not have an opponent in a primary election, the employee must take a leave of absence no later than July 1 in the year of a general election.

All leaves of absence must receive prior approval by the appropriate university official. It will be at the discretion of the university official whether the activity may require an earlier leave of absence or whether the particular election campaign is having or is likely to have an adverse effect upon university operations.

At all times, any candidate for public office that is an employee of the university shall conduct himself or herself in a professional and ethical manner in accordance with the standards of conduct of the university.

CONTACT

Kristin Sutton, Site Manager
614-292-1279 | sutton-harris.1@osu.edu

@osugovaffairs
@osuindc


BUCKEYE BRIEF

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