Union takes action in ethics code debate

By Sarah Small

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois sent a letter to President B. Joseph White Thursday criticizing the University’s “overbroad” interpretation of the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act in an ethics newsletter sent to faculty.

According to the letter, the fault of the interpretation is that employees are prohibited for showing political preference when on University property, even if they are not working on University time.

The letter states that: “University employees should not be prevented from engaging in partisan political activities held at public forums on campus. These public forums are for expression, not for performing official duties.”

Esther Patt, president of the Champaign branch of the ACLU said it makes sense that the state has such a law so that employees are prohibited from using state amenities, such as phones and email accounts to raise awareness for a specific political party or candidate, but the University’s interpretation of the law is

extreme.

The letter specifically asks the University to amend its interpretation of the ethics law to allow faculty to engage in certain political expression while on campus property.

First, they should be allowed to attend rallies in support of a candidate or party when not on duty. They should also be allowed to wear political buttons when not in the University workplace or on duty. Third, they should be allowed to

display partisan bumper stickers on their cars.

Patt said the ACLU hopes White will see the letter, realize the flaws in the University’s interpretation and issue an email with revised restrictions for University employees.

“Nobody should fear repercussions for something they do when not on duty,” Patt said.