A basic responsibility of the University is to protect its educational function and the resources accumulated over many years through the generosity of alumni and other friends of the University. There is a close interrelationship between maintenance of the legal status of the University as a tax-exempt institution and fidelity to the educational purposes for which it is chartered and for which it enjoys tax exemption.
No less fundamental is the opportunity for all members of the University community to exercise their prerogatives as citizens and engage in civic activities. While in some ways distinct, this concern also relates in important ways to the educational mission of the University. A basic principle of a residential university, such as Princeton, is that the education in the classroom is complemented and strengthened by the many opportunities for personal development and growth in the residential community. For this reason, Princeton University has over many years provided facilities for, and encouragement to, members of the University community who wish to pursue varied talents and interests beyond the classroom. The result is a wide variety of existing campus organizations, including political organizations of various sorts, publications, pre-professional associations, musical and theatrical groups, intercollegiate and intramural athletic teams, debating societies, and so on.
Encouragement of an interest in public affairs and the furtherance of a sense of social responsibility have long been considered important elements of a liberal arts education. The University continues to consider self-chosen participation in political and social action by individuals and groups to be a valuable part of the educational experience it seeks to encourage. Such activities on the part of individuals or groups do not, and should not be taken to, imply commitment of the University to any partisan political position or point of view.
To serve these objectives, the following guidelines have been developed. The guidelines are believed to be consonant with the traditional role of the University and to be in keeping with relevant laws.
Members of the University community, as individuals, have the right to exercise their full freedom of expression and association (see section 1.1.3). Under federal law, however, the University may not “participate in, or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for [any] public office” and “no substantial part of the activities” of the University may be directed to influencing legislation (i.e., lobbying) (Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code). The University, including its respective offices and academic departments, may not endorse, or provide or solicit financial or other support for, candidates for public office or partisan political organizations. These prohibitions apply as well to campus-based organizations. Therefore:
- Campus-based organizations which devote no more than an “insubstantial” part of their activities to influencing legislation may be recognized by the University.
- Such recognized organizations will have free use of University facilities and will be eligible to receive University funding.
- Such organizations will not be permitted to use University funds to influence legislation and will not be permitted to solicit tax-deductible contributions using the University’s name.
- Campus-based organizations which devote a “substantial” part of their activities to influencing legislation or that participate or intervene in a political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office may be recognized by the University.
- Such organizations may use University facilities free of charge for organizational meetings.
- Such organizations may use University facilities free of charge to present lectures, seminars, and similar programs which are open to the entire campus community and which provide opportunity for discussion and questioning.
- Such organizations will be charged for use of facilities for the appearance of political candidates which are closed events or which do not provide an opportunity for questioning. Other candidates for the same political office must be given the opportunity to appear in an equivalent venue on an equivalent basis.
- Such organizations cannot use University facilities for the purpose of fundraising for a political candidate or organization or in order to establish a campaign headquarters.
- Such organizations will not receive funds from the University.
- Such organizations are prohibited from using the University’s name to solicit tax-deductible charitable contributions.
- While the University’s name has traditionally been used in limited ways for purposes of identification by individuals and/or organizations connected with the University, individuals and groups must take special care to make it clear that when expressing political views they are speaking only for themselves and not for the University.
- All campus space and facility assignments are made by the Office of the Provost. Requests by campus-based organizations for the assignment of space or a facility must be submitted for processing to the Office of Design and Construction. (Student organizations should submit their requests through the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students or the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School.)
- Any non-campus-based organization wishing to use University space or a facility must obtain permission through the Office of Conference and Event Services. The organization concerned will be required to pay a reasonable rental charge for the use and to bear the cost of any unusual janitorial or other related expenses. Generally, non-campus-based organizations that are not charitable in nature will not be permitted to use University space or facilities for fundraising purposes.
- The University’s resources, including but not limited to its name, seal, funds, space, facilities, communications systems (e.g., mail systems and privileges, phone systems, information technology resources, internet access, etc.), contact lists, supplies, equipment, and sales and use tax exemptions, are intended to serve the educational, research, and administrative needs of the University.
- It is proper for the University’s resources to be used for bona fide academic research that may include projects related to current political issues and to the positions taken by various candidates for public office. Research of this kind, so long as it is consistent with accepted academic canons, may use centrally provided resources or, with appropriate approval, departmental resources. With departmental authorization, such research also may incur related charges against departmental accounts.
- Studies which in and of themselves might be bona fide academic research might also be designed for partisan political purposes. The University’s resources cannot be used for such work nor to advance other causes not directly related to the mission of the University, unless it is paid for from non-University funds and at the regular rate plus the standard surcharge applicable to such work.
- The University may provide space or facilities at a reasonable charge to groups that conduct political campaign activities, but only if the University offers the use of equivalent space or facilities on an equivalent basis to groups conducting campaign activities for other candidates for the same office, as well as to nonpolitical groups.
- Campus-based organizations claiming national or regional status must base off campus the portion of their activities that involve or employ people not members of the Princeton University community. Such organizations must also use off-campus mail addresses and non-University resources for non-University activities.
- Faculty, staff, and students have an obligation to fulfill all of their normal responsibilities at the University, and while they are free to engage in political and civic activities, such activities must not be at the expense of the University or their responsibilities at the University.
- Any visit, communication (whether oral, written, or electronic), or related activity (e.g., preparation, research, or other background work) that could be construed as a faculty or staff member or student engaging in lobbying activity on behalf of the University must be coordinated through the Office of Government Affairs.
- Campus-based organizations, no less than other organizations, should realize that they are subject to local, state, and federal laws and that they bear responsibility for compliance with these laws.
Questions about these guidelines should be directed to the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, the Graduate School, or the Office of the General Counsel.