This document is a reminder to members of the university community of state law and university policies regarding employee political activities while at work, including information about the use of university facilities or resources for political activities or purposes.
From time to time - usually, during an election year - the Vice Chancellor for Legal and Executive Affairs finds it necessary to remind members of the university community of state law and university policies regarding employee political activities while at work as well as the use of university facilities or resources for political activities or purposes.
The memoranda issued about this policy usually repeat the following four key points:
- First, it is a violation of state law for a UW employee to engage in political activities while at work. This has been interpreted to include working on or assisting with a political campaign; displaying signs and similar materials in the work area supporting a partisan political candidate; and using campus mail, e-mail, telephones and equipment for political activities.
- Second, it is a violation of state law for anyone to ask a UW employee to make a political contribution or to help with a political campaign while the employee is at work. This includes sending a request for a contribution or help with a campaign to a UW employee’s work mailing address or work e-mail address.
- Third, it is a violation of state law to enter a UW building or facility for the purpose of requesting a political contribution or help for a political campaign. There is an exception for University residence halls at Chapter UWS 18.06(16m), Wisconsin Administrative Code.
- In addition to these specific restrictions on political activities, state and university policies restrict the use of university time, facilities, equipment, information technology resources and supplies to university business. Note that WiscMail accounts are considered UW “information technology resources” and are subject to the same restriction on use for political purposes as regular campus e-mail accounts.
Student and employee organizations may reserve university meeting space for political discussion and debate. In keeping with the aforementioned restrictions, the appropriate means for announcements related to these activities are US Mail, leafleting outside university buildings, campus bulletin boards not reserved for official use, and meeting announcements in Wisconsin Week.
The underlying policies and rules governing this area are found in Section 8.05A of the UW-Madison Faculty Policies and Procedures, and in Section 12.05 of the UW-Madison Academic Staff Policies and Procedures, Section 7. of Guidelines for Appropriate Use of University of Wisconsin-Madison Information Technology Resources, the UW-Madison WiscMail Appropriate Use policy, and the UW System memorandum entitled “Laws and Policies Surrounding Political Campaign Activities of UW Employees.”
Please refer to the Office of Legal Affairs guidance (link provided below) for the full text of the latest memorandum and links to the policies and rules related to this topic.