Willamette University holds a federal income tax exemption under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. As a 501(c)(3) organization, the University is prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in (including the publishing or distribution of statements or campaign literature), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office, political issue or ballot measure. The University prohibits any employee from engaging in any activity that would cause the University to violate this restriction.
Use of Campus Facilities and Resources in Support of Political Campaigns
Willamette University urges each member of its community to participate fully as individual citizens in political activities. At the same time, Willamette University's policy of Academic Freedom and Responsibility states in part that:
The integrity of a university rests on the capacity of its members to search for truth in a climate of free inquiry and instruction unencumbered by restrictions of prejudice, intimidation or personal preference.
The University shall be a forum for the exploration of knowledge, concepts and ideas. The testing of concepts for validity and relevance is expected. Diversity of opinion within a common commitment to the pursuit of truth will be sustained.
The University shall remain free from the advocacy of any particular ideas save those of free inquiry and a respect for the rights and dignity of others. The University may not speak with one voice for there is no member who can speak for the institution as a whole.
On the one hand, the University is responsible to provide a forum for the exploration of diverse thoughts and opinions. On the other hand, the University is responsible to avoid advocating a particular idea. Above all, the University is responsible to preserve its integrity as a place of free inquiry and instruction.
Maintaining Willamette University's integrity as a place of free inquiry and instruction depends not only on the institution refraining from advocating a particular idea, but also on the institution avoiding the appearance of advocating a particular idea. The University's tax-exempt status and its relationships with donors and prospects require that a clear-cut distinction exits between political activities of individuals as private citizens and the activities of those individuals in their official relationship to the University.
Because special issues arise when members of the Willamette community wish to use the University's campus or resources in support of a political campaign, some guidelines have been adopted to help determine when an activity will be administratively authorized. In keeping with long-standing practice, several situations are clearly allowed and not allowed.
Examples of What is Allowed
If invited to campus by an official campus organization, candidates for political offices or spokespersons for political campaigns may participate in regularly scheduled classes or in open forum for the purpose of educating members of the Willamette community about issues before the electorate.
Student use of phones in their residence hall rooms in support of political campaigns.
Distribution of campaign literature by an official campus organization at table fairs or in the lower lobby of the University Center.
Examples of What is Not Allowed
Using Willamette University's name, logo. or mailing address in written material used for political campaign purposes.
Using Willamette University offices, office supplies, computers, or fax machines in support of political campaigns.
Using Willamette University facilities to announce a campaign or for an election night party.
Using Willamette' campus mail system for postage-free distribution of campaign literature.
Using Willamette University's facilities for fundraising purposes.
If it is not clear whether a proposed political activity is or is not allowed, the University will make a determination whether the activity should be; 1) allowed because Willamette is being used as a forum for an educational purpose; or 2) disallowed because Willamette's facilities, resources, or good name are being used or will be perceived as being used as a platform for supporting a particular political candidate or position.