Guidelines for Political Campaign-Related Activity
Northeastern University encourages its students, faculty and staff to vote and participate in the democratic process. However, federal tax laws prohibit the university, as a nonprofit institution, from direct involvement in the political process and also prohibit the use of university resources from being used to support or oppose a specific candidate. This summary of “do’s” and “don’ts” regarding involvement in activities related to campaigns for public office or ballot initiatives is based upon IRS rulings concerning nonprofit 501(c) (3) corporations and other applicable judicial decisions and laws. Failure to comply with these guidelines can result in severe penalties to the institution. This document serves as a broad overview of the university’s guidelines and is not meant to be exhaustive.
Use of University Facilities and Resources
Students, faculty, and staff may participate in political activities on their own time and without the use of university resources, such as phone, email, fax or mail. In addition, they may engage in nonpartisan activities, including training and/or educational programs, and debates designed to increase public awareness and encourage participation in the electoral process. It is also permissible to provide all political candidates opportunities to speak at the university and/or rent facilities for political events, within the stated guidelines and with the approval of the Office of Government Relations.
Providing university resources, such as mailing lists, university letterhead, web pages, telephones, computers, copy machines, and office or other space, to a political candidate or cause is prohibited. Sponsoring or hosting events to promote or advance the candidacy of a particular candidate is likewise prohibited. Fundraising for political candidates may not be done in association with the university, and using university funds for campaign contributions, either in cash or to purchase campaign materials, is prohibited.
Campaign endorsements, public statements of position, and/or contributions to political campaign funds made by or on behalf of the university are strictly prohibited. For example, this includes the posting of signs on university property showing support for a particular candidate.
Students and Student Organizations
The Office of Student Affairs must be made aware of all student-based political activities on campus. In addition to these policies, Northeastern has policies and regulations relating to political rallies and demonstrations that can be found in the student handbook. Northeastern is dedicated to preserving the rights of members of the university community to express their views and to protest, but all demonstrations must be peaceful, orderly, and abide by university regulations.
Faculty and Staff
University employees may participate in a political campaign of their choosing, off-hours, or on vacation time, so long as the activity is neither in the name of the university nor at the direction or requirement of a university official. In addition, if a member of the faculty or staff wishes to seek public office, they must work with the Office of the University Counsel to develop a plan for such activity that complies with university guidelines.
Under lobbying laws both at the state and federal levels, the university must document its lobbying activities. Therefore, if a faculty or staff is lobbying on behalf of the university, they must inform and coordinate with the Office of Government Relations. This will enable the office to determine whether the activity is in the interest of Northeastern, and to assist the faculty or staff member as needed, and enable the reporting of such activities. Members of the Northeastern community are free to lobby government officials regarding particular issues of interest to them on their own time and without the use of university resources.
The above guidelines are intended to provide helpful guidance to the campus community on political activity. Should you wish to participate in political activities at Northeastern and you have any questions, please contact the Office of Student Affairs, the Office of the University Counsel or the Office of Government Relations.