University community reminded about political activity guidelines

Johns Hopkins University encourages its faculty, staff, and students to be civically engaged and participate in the electoral process while reminding them that it's necessary to clearly separate personal actions from their role at the institution.

Federal law provides that a tax-exempt organization such as JHU may not itself "participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office," according to Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

The university offers political campaign activity guidelines that offer practical instructions for complying with university policy and IRS requirements.

In a message sent recently to faculty and staff, Paul Pineau, university vice president and general counsel, and Thomas S. Lewis, vice president for government and community affairs, encouraged all faculty and staff to pay close attention to the guidelines, which state that "a violation, whether intentional or unintentional, could have serious ramifications for the university." Among its directives:

  • Be clear that any political statements are undertaken on your own behalf and not on behalf of the university.

  • Refrain from using university resources (such as letterhead, email accounts, physical facilities, office supplies, and staff assistance, among others) in the course of participating in a political campaign.

  • Avoid using JHU funds or resources to raise money for political campaigns.

  • Do not use the Johns Hopkins University name in support of or against a particular candidate.

The document also outlines policies for candidate speeches, debates, and forums on JHU campuses, whether sponsored by a JHU group or held by a group that is renting the space.

Questions should be addressed to the General Counsel's Office at 410-516-8128 or Government and Community Affairs at 443-287-9900.

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