University community reminded about political participation

Guidelines also clarify policies for candidate speeches, debates, and forums on JHU campuses

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With political candidates gearing up for the upcoming elections, Johns Hopkins University is reminding its employees that they are encouraged to participate in the electoral process but must clearly separate personal actions from their roles 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 Wednesday 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 " "faculty and staff may engage in partisan political activities provided they do so on their own time, in their personal capacities, and without the use or support of university resources."

The document also points out that violations, whether intentional or unintentional, can 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 Johns Hopkins email accounts, letterhead, 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 JHU 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 Office of Government and Community Affairs at 443-287-9900 or the General Counsel's Office at 410-516-8128.

Information about voter registration in Maryland is available from the State Board of Elections website.

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