Guidance on Employee Political Activities
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The UNC Board of Governors voted in February 2023 to approve revisions to the Political Activities of Employees policy, which concerns political-related activities by NC State University employees, including all Extension personnel.
We often receive questions about what employees can or can’t do with regards to political-related activities, and want to use this opportunity to highlight and clarify some key details.
First, university employees retain all of the rights of citizenship provided in the Constitution and laws of North Carolina and the United States. NC State encourages employees to exercise their right to participate (or refrain from participating) in political processes without fear of penalty or reprisal.
What Can or Should I Be Doing?
You are entitled to your own political opinions and decisions, such as whether or not you register; how or if you vote; which, if any, political campaigns or organizations you engage with; and so on.
The key factor is to do so in a way that “does not compromise your efficiency or integrity as an employee or the neutrality, efficiency or integrity of the university.” To simplify, politics should be personal.
Remember to engage in political activities as a private citizen, not as a state / county employee. As long as there is a clear boundary between your personal politics and professional activities — and you’re abiding by the law — you ought to be in good shape.
What Is Not Allowed?
Certain types of political activities by university employees, however, may be incompatible with the general responsibilities of employment or with the particular responsibilities of university employment.
You should read the full policy for yourselves, but we’ve listed below a summary of prohibited activities, along with additional notes for context:
- Employees may not participate in political activities while on duty.
- Translation: No politickin’ on the clock. And recognize that your actions, even when off the clock, can still have a direct impact on your programs and colleagues. Consider how your actions may reflect upon you, the university and our stakeholders. Be smart.
- Employees may not use the authority of their position, university funds, services, supplies, equipment, information technology resources, vehicles, or other university property, to endorse, campaign for, secure support for or oppose any candidate, political party, partisan political group, referendum, or issue in an election, or affect the results thereof.
- Translation: Never leverage any university resources (including clout) to influence a political outcome. Any and all political activities — including posting on social media — should be done on your personal time through your personal resources. In short, remain on the political sidelines in your capacity as an Extension employee.
- Employees may not make any promise of preferential treatment (or actually confer such preference) or make any threat of detrimental treatment (or actually impose such detriment) to any person, including with respect to any condition or incident of employment over which the employee has authority, control, or influence, for purposes of inducing support of or opposition to any candidate for public office, political party, or partisan political group.
- Translation: Similar to #2, but specifically related to influencing other individuals. In short, never lobby anyone (internal or external) regarding anything political-related. And especially no threatening employees you supervise, offering preferential treatment to certain colleagues, making hiring decisions as political favors, etc.
What Does This Mean in a Nutshell?
Ultimately, Extension personnel should avoid any and all political activities and never convey a political stance in their capacity as university employees.
For example, if you want to post about a political candidate on social media, do it through your personal channels. If you want to attend a political event, don’t wear your Extension or NC State apparel (lest your participation be misconstrued as the university’s position). If you want to support or oppose something political, that’s your decision, but please do it on your time with your resources.
As Extension experts, we can objectively educate folks about facts and issues; we cannot advocate or lobby for specific people, parties or pieces of legislation.
When in doubt, contact your supervisor or drop our Extension Marketing and Communications team a note.