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IU formalizes policies governing political activities, contact with elected officials

Aug. 31, 2016

Two new policies that govern the use of IU’s resources with respect to political activities and interaction with elected officials went into effect in June. The purpose of the policies is to safeguard IU’s tax-exempt status by ensuring the university is not participating in or supporting political activity or campaigns and also to ensure compliance with state and federal lobby reporting requirements.

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Employees are encouraged to familiarize themselves with IU policies govern that govern the use of IU’s resources with respect to political activities and interaction with elected officials.

These policies are essentially the same as previous guidelines that have existed for many years, but were recently codified to ensure the university’s policies maintain a consistent look and style.

Here’s a bit more about the two new policies:

  • The new Political Activities policy applies to all university employees, students, university units and anyone using IU resources and facilities or receiving funds administered by the university. As a state-supported public university with a tax-exempt status under sections 115 and 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, IU may not participate or intervene in any political campaign and must prevent its resources from being used in any way that could appear to support a political campaign. The policy spells out rules for conducting voter education and facilitating candidate appearances on IU campuses, as well as activities that are prohibited such as using an IU resources to endorse a candidate or using university email to distribute messages or on behalf of a candidate or political party.
  • The new Contact with Federal and State Government Officials policy also applies to all university employees, students, university units and anyone using IU resources and facilities or receiving funds administered by the university. The policy says university employees must always distinguish between when they speak or act in a personal capacity and when they speak or act on behalf of the university’s interest, and that all personal contact with state of federal government officials or agencies must be done in the name of the individual or professional society. This policy also ensures the university can maintain compliance with state and federal lobby reporting laws, which require the university to report certain contacts and expenditures.

Before contacting any state or federal official or agency, IU employees, departments, and units must coordinate with the Office of the Vice President for Government Relations. Such contact could include, but is not limited to, emails, phone calls, meetings, testimony before a legislative or executive body, or invitations to campus events.

Vice President for Government Relations Mike Sample said he wanted to assure university personnel and students these policies do not limit individual freedoms.

“It is important to note that these guidelines are in no way intended to preclude, limit or discourage political activity or advocacy that you might wish to undertake as an individual. You have every right to do so as a citizen and Indiana University fully supports that right," he said. "These policies have been adopted for the purpose of ensuring that private political activity undertaken by members of the Indiana University community does not make use of public university resources in support of that activity.”

Any IU employee with a question about applying either policy should contact Becca Polcz at rpolcz@iu.edu or 317-231-2115.

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