August 02, 2017

What is board policy on political activity by university employees?

elections 2017The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees encourages the officials and employees of the university to fulfill their civic responsibilities as private citizens — including supporting, voting for or even being a candidate for office — consistent with state law.

Nonetheless, as Birmingham prepares to elect a mayor and city councilors later this month, employees are reminded that UAB is prohibited from endorsing or supporting any candidate for nomination or election to any public office or political entity, and it is the responsibility of employees to ensure that they do not directly or indirectly violate the law.

Board policy, in effect since 1978, offers guidance on employee actions that are illegal and improper and also those that may create the appearance of impropriety.

What are the limits?

As a representative of a taxpayer-supported institution, state law and board policy forbids specific actions by employees:

  • Employees may not use or permit to be used UAB resources, time or property for or on behalf of any political candidate, campaign or organization or for any contribution or solicitation of any contribution to a political campaign or organization

  • Employees may not lend or appear to lend the support of UAB in connection with any contribution or its solicitation to a political campaign or organization.

How can you help what people assume?

It is the responsibility of UAB employees to make clear that they are acting in a private and individual capacity and that their political activities do not have UAB sponsorship or support. Because of their prominent identification with the institution, senior administrators have a heavy obligation to ensure their activities are not misinterpreted or misunderstood.

For those who are active online — through websites and social media — a disclaimer will be useful. This or something similar can be added to an About section or a Profile statement:

“The views and opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect the views of the University of Alabama at Birmingham or the State of Alabama. They may not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes.”

How does this affect you as a candidate?

First, UAB employees who want to seek or hold public office and remain employed with UAB employ should be certain their candidacy or elected position could not cause a conflict of interest or interfere with their campus responsibilities.

Second, employees who intend to seek election to public office must first obtain written consent from the chancellor through appropriate reporting channels.

Read or download a PDF of the full board policy online.