Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tumbleweeds In The Parking Lots

From Inside Higher Ed, via Ann Althouse:

The university system’s ethics office sent a notice to all employees, including faculty members, telling them that they could not wear political buttons on campus or feature bumper stickers on cars parked in campus lots unless the messages on those buttons and stickers were strictly nonpartisan. In addition, professors were told that they could not attend political rallies on campuses if those rallies express support for a candidate or political party.

That can't be legal. It certainly is stupid. Some folks at some universities--and government universities at that!--seem not to have heard of the 1st Amendment.

Government cannot tell free men and women not to express their political opinions.

Update, 10/7/08: Reversed.


Ellen K said...

I have a bumper sticker on my car. I have frankly been concerned about vandalism, and not necessarily from students. While our students are interested and some are involved in the campaigns, some of the more liberal teachers are outspoken in their disdain of the opposing candidates and their supporters. While I do not feel it is appropriate to express my political, religious or other views in the classroom, when I leave my room to go home, I am on my own time. We did get veiled warnings about how our status as district employees should impact our personal behavior, but political activism wasn't one of the areas visited.

David said...

Sounds like the professors are more interested in establishing themselves as a privileged class, compared with the other employees, then they are in protecting the rights of *all* employees.

mazenko said...

Actually, it can be, and is, legal under the Fair Campaign Act - at least the part about the campaign buttons in class. The bumper stickers is more dubious, and my understanding is that bumper stickers are OK. The political rallies part is certainly questionable.

You can certainly argue about that law being constitutional, but it was passed, and it has been heavily emphasized by conservative groups who oppose the "indoctrination of students by liberal professors in positions of authority."

rightwingprof said...

I doubt that anyone in the university administration considered whether the action was legal or not. They never do.

Steve K. USMA '85 said...

Actually Darren, it is very legal and not at all stupid in many cases. I refer to the 1939 Hatch Act which was updated in 1993. The Hatch Act prevents Federal employees from engaging in political activities while on duty, in a Government office, wearing an official uniform, or using a Government vehicle. Wear of political buttons on duty is expressly prohibited.
This goes back to the days when the political appointees forced career Feds to help their campaigning for their party. The problem also extended to career managers who used employees to work for various campaigns on Government time using Government resources. Congress figured this was out of line. The Government should not be influencing which party got to run the Government. Not too stupid when you look at it that way.
So, if this is a Government campus you are referring to, then my guess is that the lawyers said they have to follow the Hatch Act.
BTW, at my Government agency, they usually overlook the bumper stickers but don't come into the building wearing anything. Could cost you your job. Every four years a couple of Feds are fired over the Hatch Act. Some people never learn.

MikeAT said...

Steve K

I have to disagree with you on the Hatch Act. This issue concerns state employees of the State of Illinois, not federal employees. Agreed, when I’m in my uniform (I’m a drilling reservist) I don’t discuss my politics. But my truck still has my bumper stickers on it.

I’m more curious about something else. Why does a university have an “Ethics Department”? Then again we are still waiting for the “Ethics Department” (or any of the education higher bureaucracy) to send out guidance to professors to keep their political views out of their lectures.