Employee reminder: Separation of personal and institutional political advocacy

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As we approach the beginning of the legislative session, I want to remind you of Iowa State’s policies regarding political advocacy and usage of university resources for political purposes.

Political activity includes both personal and institutional advocacy. Advocacy efforts on behalf of the institution must be approved through the Office of the President, and subsequently through the Regents’ Governmental Relations Office. Keep in mind that the President’s office, in coordination with the Board of Regents, has already worked to determine ISU’s legislative priorities, and ISU is currently presenting that information to individual legislators.

As citizens, employees have full rights to participate in the political process, including voicing support for, or opposition to, state and federal legislation. However, ISU’s employees— especially faculty and administrative leaders—should not imply that their personal views represent those of the university. A good rule-of-thumb is: If there is any question or ambiguity as to whether an employee is speaking (or writing) individually or on behalf of Iowa State, the employee should clarify that he/she is speaking (or writing) individually.

I specifically point out that using university computers, e-mail accounts, and telephones for these purposes is not permitted because the public may incorrectly infer that the institution endorses the position, or that state resources are being improperly used to support a particular position. Employees who wish to be personally involved in political advocacy should, for instance, use a non-ISU computer and email account (such as Gmail), perform such advocacy on personal time, and reference a home address in communications rather than an ISU office address.

I ask that you communicate this policy to your reporting units and departments.

As always, let me know if you have any questions. Inquiries regarding state legislative matters should be directed to Joe Murphy, state relations officer, at 4-7239 or jmurphy@iastate.edu.  Questions regarding employee political activity may be directed to Paul Tanaka, university counsel, at 4-5352 or ptanaka@iastate.edu.

-Jonathan Wickert Senior Vice President and Provost