Iowa Staters' guide to political activities

This Q&A, printed a year ago in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, remains a good reference for Iowa Staters during the next two months of general election politicking. Prepared by the office of university counsel, the guidelines are meant to help faculty, staff and students exercise their rights as citizens without running afoul of federal and state laws designed to keep public agencies politically neutral. 

The guidelines are based on a key principle: The university should not be used to promote partisan political causes and candidates. Iowa State's educational mission is fundamental to a democratic society. But at the same time, public trust requires that the university not use its resources and equipment to support political campaigns.

Can university buildings be used for political campaign activities?

Generally, campaign events should be held in spaces available for public use, such as the Memorial Union (294-1437) or the Iowa State Center (294-3347). To assure fairness and to give priority for academic uses, the university discourages use of academic buildings and spaces for campaign events. As public buildings fill up or specialized space is needed, exceptions may need to be made. Faculty and staff who receive requests for academic space for a campaign event should contact Cathy Brown (294-6001). She will ensure that scheduling alternatives have been considered and monitor fairness.

If current public officials request facility tours, is it OK to comply?

As long as the purpose of the tour is to provide information for the public official and does not involve a solicitation for votes, it will not be treated as a campaign event. Generally, such events should be coordinated through government relations -- either state relations, 294-7239, or Sophia Magill, federal relations,, 294-2320.

As ISU faculty and staff, can we speak up about our personal political views?

You can speak and act as any citizen, but you shouldn't say or imply that your views are those of the university.

Can I discuss politics in the office?

Yes, if you're not disrupting work.

Can students display political banners and signs in residence hall rooms?


If I express a political view in a letter to the editor, is it OK to use my university title?

For purposes of identification, you can use your university title, as long as you don't imply that you speak on behalf of the university. If there's any chance of confusion, you should clarify that you're speaking only for yourself.

May I engage in activities supporting candidates or ballot measures?

Yes, if it's on your own time and with your own equipment. State law prohibits employees from working on a political campaign during work hours. University computers and email accounts are for business purposes. While university policy allows some incidental personal email use, that certainly wouldn't apply to sending email blasts to support a candidate or ballot measure.

May I invite a candidate or political advocate to speak to my class?

Federal law requires that all candidates have equal and fair access to the university. If you invite a candidate or advocate to your class, you must give opposing candidates and speakers the same opportunity. They need not take advantage of that opportunity.

Are candidate forums allowed?

Yes, if the forums or series of events are balanced and intended to educate the community on issues relevant to an upcoming election.

What about an ISU faculty or staff member presenting research on the political process or a ballot measure?

That's allowed, assuming it's not a pretext for supporting a candidate or ballot measure.

May university officials comment on how candidate actions or ballot measures might affect Iowa State?

Yes, as long as the comments reflect concern about the university and its mission. The comments cannot be simply an attempt to influence the success or failure of candidates or measures.