Time Off to Vote and Campus Political Activity

Spelman College encourages all students, faculty and staff to be active and engaged citizens, and to participate fully in the political life of the community. Generally, employees are able to find time to vote either before or after their regular work schedule. If employees are unable to vote in an election during their nonworking hours, Spelman will grant up to 2 hours of paid time off to vote, including early voting, for each voting process (general, presidential, primary, and runoff elections).

Employees should request time off to vote from their supervisor at least two working days prior to the Election Day. Advance notice is required so that the necessary time off can be scheduled at the beginning or end of the work shift; whichever provides the least disruption to the normal work schedule.

As a non-profit, tax-exempt entity, Spelman must abide by federal and state laws prohibiting the use of its facilities, services or personnel to promote or support individuals or organizations campaigning for public office. These laws prohibit Spelman College, and any of its related entities, from contributing to or supporting political candidates or parties. Simply put, no Spelman resources – including personnel, computers, e-mail accounts, copiers, office space, vehicles or publications – may be used for political purposes. The restrictions on political activity do not apply to any employee acting as an individual, on their own time and using personal resources. Understanding the basic rules help promote vibrant discussions on campus about candidates and political issues without violating the law.

The following guidelines are designed to address the most common questions about political activity by Spelman employees. If you do have issues or concerns not noted below, we encourage you to seek clarification from your supervisor, department chair or directly from the Office of Human Resources.

Personal Political Activity by Spelman College Employees

Employees Speaking Out on Political Issues. A Spelman employee who speaks or writes on political issues – such as at campaign events, op-eds, blogs and other public media – should take care to indicate that the comments are personal and do not represent the views of the College. Though an employee may be identified by College title or job description, the employee’s association with Spelman should be made only for purposes of identification. A statement such as the following can clarify this: “Titles and affiliations of each individual are provided for identification purposes only and do not reflect the views of the institution.” In addition, employees should only use personal e-mail accounts and personal computers (not Spelman.edu accounts or Spelman computers) for the distribution of campaign messages, petitions and similar material.

Employee Involvement in Political Campaigns. Federal law prohibits Spelman College from raising funds for a political candidate or political party. This prohibition includes using Spelman facilities, personnel or other resources for partisan political activities. In addition, employees may not use the College seal, letterhead, symbols, or other identifiable marks of institutional affiliation (including photos of Spelman buildings) to endorse or promote political parties, campaigns or candidates. Spelman funds cannot be used to reimburse individuals for political donations, and no employee can implicitly or explicitly require any Spelman employee to make a political contribution. Watch out, too, for web pages – for example, a link to only one candidate’s web page or information on a Spelman website may be interpreted as favoring a particular candidate. Faculty and staff who advise campaigns or candidates on policy or strategic issues may do so but must be explicit in communications that they do not represent the College in this regard.

Candidate Appearances on Campus. Candidates for political office may speak on campus at the invitation of the College or organizations affiliated with the College as long as:

  • Spelman provides equal speaking opportunities to political candidates seeking the same office;
  • Spelman as an institution is not indicated as being in support of or opposition to the candidate (this should be stated explicitly when the candidate is introduced and in announcements of the candidate’s attendance);
  • No political fundraising occurs; and
  • The appearance is a speech, a Q& A session, or a similar format typical of an educational activity at an academic institution.

Invitations from Faculty Members or Academic Units. Faculty members may reserve facilities for educational activities involving political candidates provided the appearance furthers the educational or academic mission of Spelman in accordance with the policy regarding the use of College facilities. Fundraising on campus is not permitted. Faculty members need to take special care to follow the above guidelines for candidate appearances and to avoid the appearance of institutional endorsement.

Invitations from Student Groups. Recognized student organizations may use facilities for partisan political purposes or for political forums in accordance with the policy on use of College facilities. Fundraising is not permitted.

Events Open to the Public. Candidates can visit campus without an invitation at events open to the public, but fundraising is not permitted.

Press Conferences. Press conferences or similar on–campus events for a political candidate are generally prohibited.

Policy No.  308  Effective Date:  9/1/2000  Revision Date:  11/30/2008