2016 Election – Do's and Don'ts for Political Activities on the University of Montana

As we enter the political campaign and election season, we want to remind the campus community of the policies and laws applying to politically-related activities of public employees (all faculty and staff).  The University is dedicated to the free expression of ideas and fully respects the diversity of thoughts and ideas expressed during campaign seasons.  It encourages its employees, in their individual capacities, to participate fully in the political process during campaigns for candidates for public office.  Being a state employee does not mean you lose any of your constitutional rights to participate or not participate as you desire in the political process as long as such participation is not on work time and does not involve the use of university property.

Guidelines on Political Activities

  • When endorsing or opposing a political candidate or taking a position on a ballot issue, you should take steps to make clear that you are speaking only for yourself and that you are not stating a University position. 
  • Engage in partisan political activities freely on your own time, but you must not do so at the expense of your regular responsibilities to the University or your students.
  • You may not use the University’s name, insignia, property, personnel, or funds to solicit support for or opposition to any political committee, the nomination or election of any person to public office, or passage of a ballot issue.
  • Do not use University mailing lists – including addresses and email addresses of departmental offices or the offices of faculty or other employees – to send out partisan political communications.
  • You may not coerce or require a public employee to support or oppose a political candidate or ballot measure. 
  • You may not induce a person to vote for or against a candidate or a ballot issue by promising them employment.
  • University employees may not – and should not be asked to – perform tasks related to partisan political activities during work hours.
  • Certain nonpartisan political activities (such as properly organized voter registration activities, voter education programs, and candidate debates) may be permissible if they do not evidence a preference for or opposition to a political party or candidates who have taken a particular position.

Best Practices

  • Never use the University's time or resources for the purpose of trying to influence political or legislative action.
  • Always show respect for the opinion of others.
  • Make sure you make every effort to indicate that you are speaking as a private citizen and not speaking for the University.
  • Distinguish between providing information on your area of expertise versus providing what might be construed to be an official position of the University.

Confused, questions, or need more information? Contact Lucy France @ lucy.france@umontana.edu or Claudia Eccles @ claudia.eccles@umontana.edu

Resources: Political Activity of Public Employees, MUS Commissioner’s Directive (12/12/2012); §2-2-121(3), MCA