Purpose of the Policy
New York University’s (“University”) status as a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code prohibits it from participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office. The University may not endorse a candidate or ballot proposal, provide or solicit financial or other support for candidates or political organizations, or establish political action committees. Participating in political campaigns by or in the name of the University could jeopardize the University’s tax-exempt status.
The University is committed to the principle of academic freedom, which is essential to the free search for truth and its free expression. Accordingly, the University is committed to free and open discussion of ideas and opinions and encourages University members to exercise their civic rights to participate as individuals in the political process. At the same time, no University member should feel institutional pressure or pressure by colleagues to contribute to, or perform tasks in support of, a political campaign.
Who Needs to Know this Policy
All University employees, including faculty, administration, and staff must know this policy.
University members means all New York University employees, including faculty, administration, and staff.
Political Campaign Activity
Political campaign activity includes payment or solicitation of campaign contributions; service in furtherance of candidates, political parties and/or political action committees; advocating a particular position on a referendum.
Lobbying includes any attempt by a University member to influence legislation, a policy action or other government decision in the University’s name, using University resources, or on behalf of the University. The University is required to report all such interactions that take place by any person who is employed by the University. An interaction may require the individual who has engaged in the contact to become a registered lobbyist.
It is the policy of New York University not to participate in, directly or indirectly, or to intervene in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office. Participation includes distributing statements in favor of or opposed to a candidate and making direct campaign contributions of University funds, as well as in-kind, or non-cash, contributions to a candidate, political party, or political action group. Also included are the use of a University member’s time while at work, office spaces and office supplies (envelopes, paper, etc.), telephones, computers, email, mailing lists, and photocopy machines.
The accompanying guidelines regarding political activity and the use of University facilities for political activities are designed to help ensure adherence to these fundamental principles. This list is only a sample of the type of uses that are prohibited.
- University employees may participate in political activity only as private citizens, not as representatives of the University. Employees are entitled to participate in or contribute to any political organization or campaign, but may not label any personal communication with legislators as being representative of the University.
- Fundraising and/or contributions for political candidates or campaigns may not, under any circumstances, be solicited in the name of New York University or on any University campus.
- University members may not use University funds or attempt to be reimbursed with University funds for any political participation.
- University members who engage in voter registration or "get out the vote" drives by University-sponsored organizations must do so on a non-partisan basis (i.e., they may not focus on a particular party).
- University members may not post campaign posters or distribute campaign literature on the University campus.
- University members must refrain from attempting to influence government officials by providing or offering any benefit in the University’s name, using University resources, or on behalf of the University. If a University member is responsible for conducting transactions or handling contracts with governmental agencies, he or she must ensure that they are handled honestly and ethically.
- University members must report inappropriate requests for benefits from government officials. If a government representative requests or demands any type of benefit from the University, the member must report the matter immediately to the Office of Government and Community Affairs or the Office of Legal Counsel.
While the University is allowed to lobby on specific issues, the IRS places strict limitations on this kind of advocacy. If you have any questions about political participation and the University’s tax-exempt status, contact the Office of Government and Community Affairs or the Office of Legal Counsel.
- Dates of official enactment and amendments: May 21, 2009
- History: None
- Cross References: Faculty Handbook, Title I, Statement in Regard to Academic Freedom provides, “The University is committed to the principle of academic freedom, which is essential to the free search for truth and its free expression.” See also, Faculty Handbook, Guidelines for the Use of University Facilities (adopted by the Faculty Senate, May 13, 1971, amended May 12, 1977), which provides in pertinent part, “the University cannot under its charter and the obligations of a not-for-profit educational institution in New York State become a source of subsidy for strictly political action groups. University facilities are not available to non-University organizations for use in political activities.” See also, Faculty Handbook, Policy on Solicitation, which states “Employees may not use University communication facilities—mail, telephone, supplies, or equipment—for other than NYU business purposes.”