It is important that all faculty, staff members and student organizations review and understand RIT’s guidelines concerning political and legislative activities on campus. Federal regulations pertaining to RIT’s status as a tax-exempt organization restrict persons acting on its behalf from certain activities. In addition, there are, from time to time, occasions where members of the RIT community may wish to express their views on political or legislative matters. The purpose of this statement is to provide some guidance as to institutional policies and procedures in this area.
As a tax-exempt organization under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3), RIT cannot intervene in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office. RIT’s Charter also states that RIT shall not “participate in, or intervene in, any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office.”
Therefore, RIT will not, and no affiliate acting directly or indirectly on behalf of RIT will, participate in or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office, including the publishing or distributing of statements. This stipulation precludes the use of university letterhead, telephones, or other instrumentation on behalf of any political party or candidate for public office.
Violation of this prohibition could result in RIT’s loss of its tax-exempt status or imposition of excise taxes. All persons affiliated with RIT, including but not limited to members of the board of trustees, administration, faculty, staff, RIT committees and RIT student organizations, will refrain from engaging in the following activities on RIT’s property, during corporate functions or while otherwise using RIT’s resources or facilities:
1) endorsing any candidate for public office;
2) donating or contributing to any candidate’s campaign
3) participating or engaging in political fundraising events;
4) publishing or distributing statements for or against any candidate; or
5) engaging in any other activity that favors or opposes any candidate.
Individual members of the RIT community are, of course, entirely free to support candidates of their choice for elective office, or to express their personal views on political issues, as long as in so doing they are not acting in their official capacity as an officer or employee of RIT. RIT and individuals acting in their official capacity on behalf of RIT must refrain from endorsement of individual candidates and partisan political issues.
RIT may under certain circumstances provide information to elected officials to assist them in their deliberations on public policy issues. RIT may also provide members of the RIT community, including parents and students, with educational information about legislative issues of interest. However, no substantial part of the activities of RIT may consist of attempting to influence legislation except to the extent permitted by applicable law and regulations for educational, tax-exempt organizations.
To avoid conflicting institutional positions and policies, requests by outside organizations for representatives of RIT to communicate with elected officials on legislative issues, including associations organizing “Hill” or “Advocacy” days at the Federal and/or State level, must be vetted by the Division of Government and Community Relations in advance of any participation.
Procedures for Inviting Government Officials to RIT
The Division of Government Relations and Community Relations should be consulted before invitations to visit or participate in RIT events are extended to elected or appointed government officials and to candidates for public office. This includes academic conferences, tours, other types of presentations or meetings as well as student-sponsored events.
In this way, the Division of Government and Community Relations will serve as a resource in facilitating contacts with government officials and assisting the sponsoring groups or individual with planning the event in accordance with appropriate protocols and RIT initiatives.
Anyone planning to invite government officials at any level (federal, state or local) or candidates for any political office to campus for any reason or if you have questions or need clarification about these guidelines concerning political and legislative activities on campus, please contact the vice president for Government and Community Relations.
With appropriate organization sponsorship and/or faculty supervision, the use of RIT classrooms or other campus facilities for political discussion or debate is permissible under certain circumstances. Student organizations, for example, may sponsor a political event on campus or conduct a voter registration drive. Classroom activity may also include discussions or debates on political issues as a legitimate part of the educational process. Candidates for political office may be invited to speak on campus, provided that the opportunity to do so is made available to all candidates on a non-partisan basis.
RIT facilities may be used for public events such as legislative hearings on topics of general or educational interest.
RIT may not otherwise, however, provide space or facilities on campus for partisan political functions such as fundraising events or similar activities that could be construed as endorsement of a particular candidate or political party. The RIT Inn and Conference Center is a facility that is available to the general public and as such may be rented equally to any group or organization, including political organizations. This facility may be made available on an equal basis to political organizations for political events, including fundraising.
Elected officials or candidates for public office are not precluded from visiting the campus for meetings and discussions related to RIT business. Arrangements for these visits are handled by the Division of Government and Community Relations.