Guidelines on Political Activity

GUIDELINES ON POLITICAL ACTIVITY AND USE OF STATE RESOURCES

The University of Washington and School of Public Health are committed to upholding protected speech and the exchange of ideas. We encourage faculty, postdocs, staff, and students to engage in the political process by exercising their civic rights. Employees, however, should be aware of relevant University policies and state law, and they should strive to foster a productive, harassment-free work environment.

Under state law (RCW 45.52.180), state resources cannot be used to promote one political position over another. Further, University policy prohibits the use of state resources for assisting an election campaign, promoting or opposing a ballot proposition or initiative, or lobbying the state legislature.

The guidelines below are meant to help individuals make decisions about how to engage appropriately in political campaigning and other activities while also being members of the broader UW community.

Can I endorse a political candidate or take part in a political campaign?

Yes, but you must not speak for or in the name of the University of Washington. Political activity must occur on your own time and with your own resources (computer, email, non-UW server, etc.). You should not use a UW affiliation in an endorsement or political statement.

Can I urge my fellow colleagues or students to vote?

Yes, as long as your message does not promote one political view over another, does not make a political call to action, and does not link to a political party website. When sharing resources, the UW recommends linking to the Secretary of State’s VoteWA initiative or the UW Libraries’ Election 2020: Register & Vote page. President Cauce has signed on to the All In Campus Democracy Challenge and committed to 100% student voter registration and turnout. As part of the #HuskiesVote effort, we recommend linking to the UW Student Life website. You can use UW listservs to share the UW-recommended websites.

Do these rules apply to students?

Yes and no. Students can use their emails for anything they’d like and are not subject to the Washington State Ethics Act. They can share petitions as well as comments to vote for a specific candidate or specific ballot initiative. However, they cannot use department listservs for such activity. If the student is a student employee, Research Assistant, etc., and they are on “working hours,” they should follow the same guidelines as state employees or they could be in potential violation of the Act.

What are ‘state resources’?

University facilities, computers, and equipment, including email and internet access. School and department social media accounts also are considered state resources. 

Are UW mailing lists/listservs considered a state resource?

Yes. University mailing lists are considered state resources. Individuals, however, could set up their own opt-in private mailing lists and distribution system (such as on Gmail) to share information on political activity or petitions about ballot initiatives.

For more examples, see Guidelines for Appropriate Personal Engagement in Political Activities (from the College of the Environment) and the UW Medicine policy on political campaigning.

RESOURCES:

UW Administrative Policy Statement 47.2

Use of University Resources

Washington State Ethics in Public Service Act (including “Use of public resources for political campaigns)

Use of public office or agency facilities in campaigns—Prohibition—Exceptions (Washington state law RCW 42.17A.5550)

DEAN’S OFFICE CONTACTS:

Uli Haller, Assistant Dean for Finance and Adminstration, ulih@uw.edu

Meghan Herman, Director of Human Resources, megnewt@uw.edu