A reminder: Guidelines for faculty and staff on political activity

Iowa has a unique role in our nation's presidential election process through the Iowa Caucuses. However, state Board of Regents and Iowa Code require Iowa State University to not participate in any activity that could be construed as favoring any party or candidate. Federal law requires that all candidates have equal and fair access to the university. Inviting a candidate or advocate to a class for example, requires that opposing candidates and speakers receive the same opportunities.

As a state institution, the university is politically neutral and is prohibited from endorsing any candidate for political office and using state property to campaign for candidates or ballot initiatives. Advocacy on behalf of the institution must be approved through the regents.

Free speech training is an annual requirement

All faculty, staff and students are required by Iowa law to annually complete free speech training. The 20-minute training provides an understanding of protected speech and how to exercise your First Amendment rights on campus without violating university policies.

  • Faculty and staff should complete the training in Workday Learning.
  • Students should complete the training in Canvas.

More information about university policies related to free speech is on the university's free speech website. 

Additionally, the university cannot host campaign events on university property except through existing options -- such as rented facilities, student organization functions or the university lectures campaign series -- that are available equally to all members of the campus community. Federal law also prohibits campaign fundraising on university grounds.

Guidance for faculty and staff

As noted on the president's website and provost's website, Iowa State faculty and staff may participate fully in political activities if they are acting on their own behalf and using their own personal time and personal resources. This includes not using university resources for political activities -- including your computer or Iowa State email account -- and making it clear that you are only speaking for yourself, and your opinions do not represent those of the university.

Political activities that use public resources are generally prohibited. These include:

  • Engaging in political activity during work time.
  • Sending out a campaign mailing using Iowa State stationery or postage purchased by the university.
  • Using a university provided telephone, computer, email account, or social media account to support of oppose a candidate or ballot initiative.
  • Using an official university email list or listserv to send political material.
  • Using university equipment to print or copy political material.
  • Holding a campaign or political fundraising event in a university office space or other facility.
  • Placing campaign signs on property owned by the university, including on or within university buildings.

Employees who speak on political issues should take care to note they are speaking as individual citizens, and their views are not the views of the university. This includes letters to the editor and opinion articles written by faculty and staff.

An additional area of concern is the use of classroom time for political discussions or activity. Faculty and instructors should take care to ensure political discussions are germane and appropriate to the curriculum of a course and avoid activities that may be perceived as partisan in nature without providing similar opportunities for members of the campus community with other viewpoints.

Faculty and staff with questions about legislative or matters may contact Iowa State's federal and state relations team. Questions regarding employee political activity may be directed to the office of university counsel.